ISU Magazine

Volume 42 | Number 1 | Fall 2011

Caccia Field

"... you never know when the little guy's gonna end up being the big guy, and here we are today."
- Rick Miles

Photos by ISU Photographic Services/Susan Duncan

Five Guys Fry Guy

Fall 2011 Issue | By Andrew Taylor

Idaho State University alum Rick Miles provides Five Guys Burgers and Fries with 2.1 to 2.25 million pounds of potatoes per week, and that amount will continue to grow as this franchise continues to expand.

Miles, who attended Idaho State University from 1970-72 studying business, began servicing this chain in 2002 when it consisted of about eight restaurants. At that time he helped supply about 150 50-pound bags of potatoes every 10 days to Five Guys. Now, that number of 50-pound bags of delicious fry-producing, genuine Idaho Russet Burbank potatoes has grown to between 42,000 and 45,000 50-pound bags per week, supplied by Rick Miles Produce Service based in Rigby.

Since 2002, Five Guys has grown to more than 800 franchises in the United States and Canada, and the last couple of years has opened between 200 and 220 stores annually. The company's long-term plans are for another 2,200 or more franchises being opened in the next eight years.

The Rigby native met the owner and founder of Five Guys, Jerry Murrell, when the restaurant was growing from five stores in Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area to 13 restaurants.

"When I met Jerry Murrell, the CEO and the father of the family that owns Five Guys Burgers and Fries, we hit it off and he indicated he had big plans for expanding," Miles said. "We put ourselves in position to grow as they sold franchises, and it has worked out really well."

Miles, 58, says that he has to hustle to meet the demands of supplying Five Guys. Miles and his relationship with Five Guys was featured last December in an MSNBC story "Behind the Counter." According to that story, out of the 3 billion pounds of fresh potatoes shipped out of Idaho annually, Five Guys is purchasing about 4 to 5 percent of them. Five Guys was the biggest buyer of Idaho potatoes in 2010, according to the MSNBC story.

Rick Miles and Klaren Coompin, of Coompin Farms, inspect a potato crop near American Falls.

"We're in the process of putting the infrastructure in place to handle the growth," Miles said. "We fortunately have good relationships with a lot of packing facilities and growers in Idaho, and those relationships help us."

The quality of Idaho potatoes also helps and the potato growers who provide the potatoes are prominently displayed on signs in Five Guys restaurants.

"We often get emails and people call us and tell us how much they enjoy the French fries," Miles said. "Idaho potatoes make excellent fries, but a lot of it is how Five Guys cooks them. They're extremely conscientious about the quality of product they serve."

Miles, 58, has been involved in the potato business since he was 13 years old and worked at a packing company his uncle owned. Eventually, he started his own distributor and brokerage business, which he has run for the last 18 years. Rick Miles Produce Service now has three full-time employees and two part-time employees, including Miles' two daughters, Sheri Littleford and Brooke Holverson.

"They are an integral part of what we do," Miles said. Miles and his wife, Betty, have four children.

Miles said the knowledge he gained as a student helped him with his business. He had this advice for current ISU students.

"You need to get as much higher education as you can, but hands-on experience is worth a lot," Miles said. "It takes a while to get that experience and be effective."

Work hard, and take advantage of opportunities that come your way, is another piece of advice from Miles.

"I was a small company, they were a small company," Miles said in the MSNBC story of his initial contact with Five Guys, "and you never know when the little guy's gonna end up being the big guy, and here we are today."