In-N-Out Burger, despite “only” being a regional chain of burger joints (with locations primarily in the American Southwest) is known around the Western World as a place that serves delicious hamburgers, even if most people have never had the chance to sink their teeth into one of their juicy delights. Founded in Baldwin Park, California back in 1948, In-N-Out is headquartered in Irvine, California and served primarily Southern California until it began to expand to the rest of California, then to Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas and Oregon. It’s hesitance to open itself to franchising has kept and air of mystery around the restaurant to those who aren’t lucky enough to live in one of the six states it operates in, so let’s help lift the veil of mystery and drop 10 Facts about In-N-Out Burger that you may not know! It is amazing, though, as basically everyone has heard of In-N-Out Burger and there are actually people that travel to the above mentioned states simply to try these burgers. Should they ever open themselves up nationally they’d make a killing, although they’d lose their vice like grip so it probably will never happen, unfortunately.
10. It’s still Family Owned
When it comes to other fast food burger chains, going public is typically the way to go as it opens up the restaurant to a flood of new cash and allows for rapid expansion that is often needed in the dog eat… Burger world that is the fast food game. However, the Snyder family that opened the first In-N-Out Burger back in 1948 still owns every restaurant, with Lynsi Snyder, the only grandchild of founders Harry Snyder and Esther Snyder, being the sole owner. The reasoning behind this is simple, the Snyders like money! Actually, it’s because they like to retain ownership of each restaurant to ensure that a certain level of quality is being met and that seems to have worked for them thus far, as they not only have a very loyal customer base but also because they’ve been rated as one of the top fast food restaurants in several major customer satisfaction surveys. If you go onto any site like Yelp or Glassdoor, which basically would rank the quality of each location from the perspective of both the customer and the employee, In-N-Out Burger is basically the highest ranked fast foot joint in the game. The apple must not fall far from the tree, or in this case, the ground beef?
9. They Don’t Franchise
Part of maintaining ownership as a family also means that the Snyders have rebuffed the typical model of Fast Food restaurants which is to open up their brand to franchising. That allows for rapid expansion as most of the money that it’d take to open and market new restaurants is the responsibility of the franchisee, with the restaurant basically just collecting a portion of the profits and shouldering the responsibility of some of the marketing (especially on a national level). Beyond maintaining quality for it’s customers, keeping things privately owned also allows In-N-Out to ensure a certain level of quality for it’s employees as well. Of all Fast Food restaurants In-N-Out is particularly known for it’s employee-centered personnel policies. Because of that, In-N-Out Burger currently has a 4.5 out of 5 star rating on the employee ranking website GlassDoor.com as well as the same ranking on Indeed.com, something that is nearly unheard of in the industry. Outside of pay, they also offer a ton of flexibility when it comes to the hours it offers employees which helps create a positive work-life balance and employee retention. That means that their employees tend to be happier and that is reflected in the food as employees who feel respected and rested tend to work harder than ones who don’t.
8. They Pay Really Well
As touched on above, In-N-Out Burger bucks the industry trend of paying it’s employees low wages, with starting wages being on average about 20 percent higher than it’s competition. That’s important as during the “Fight for 15” set of strikes that fast food workers embarked on a few years ago it was reported that upward of 40 percent of fast food workers actually lived in poverty, with just 14 percent of non-union restaurant workers receiving benefits from their employers. In-N-Out Burger, though, starts off it’s hourly workers at $10.50 an hour, which is where that 20 percent comes in (compared to the median hourly wage nationally for similar positions which clocks in at just under $8.95 an hour). That’s also 44 percent above the national minimum wage, which goes against the typical insults that those that work at fast food restaurants have to deal with. Beyond that, most front-line employees at In-N-Out Burger make $14 dollars an hour (on average), with store managers with a certain amount of time under their belt bringing in an insane (for the industry or just in general) six figures! So perhaps people need to stop using the insult “McJob” and replace it with J-n-OBurger?
7. It Has it’s Own Non-Profit
That money sharing doesn’t just extend to employees, either, as the Snyder family believes in giving back, so much so that they established the In-N-Out Burgers Foundation back in March of 1995. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, it’s classified as a “Human Services: Fund Raising and Fund Distribution” organization under the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities classification system. Also based in Irvine, California, the foundation “Supports organizations that provide residential treatment, emergency shelter, foster case and early intervention for children in need.” In the most recent year where financial reporting was available publicly, the foundation contributed over $1.5 million to 231 grantees in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah with typical grants being between $2,000 and $20,000 and going to other certified non-profits. While other fast food joints tend to work with non-profits, like McDonald’s and their Ronald McDonald house, outside of McDonald’s this makes In-N-Out different in that it has it’s own direct 501(c)(3). It’s actually really amazing that the Snyders seemingly give a large amount of money away either to their non-profit or their employees, that’s really cool and honestly, rare in today’s dog eat dog world.
6. It was Opened by a Pair of Newlyweds
When the first In-N-Out opened in October of 1948, it was the first drive-thru hamburger stand in the State of California and allowed people to place orders via a tow-way speaker system. It’s owners, Harry and Esther Snyder, were newly married and are credited as two of the first people to develop the idea of a drive-thru anything. Before this first In-N-Out Burger people would park at drive in’s and give their orders to carhops, who would then walk/run/roller-skate their orders into the restaurant. The Snyders managed and monitored their restaurants closely to ensure that quality was maintained with Harry often driving himself to local markets to pick up fresh ingredients and Esther handling the accounting books. They opened their second location three years after the first on the west of the intersection of Grand Avenue and Arrow Highway in Covina California. When Harry Snyder died in 1976 at the age of 63, they had opened 18 locations. So while most newlyweds are looking for houses, or planning their family, the Snyders were basically revolutionizing how people ate food. They are given a lot of the credit for creating the two speak drive-thru, replacing the old school system of using human beings to relay orders. So while McDonald’s tries to usurp that credit, it was really Harry and Esther, still driving around with ‘Just Married’ on the back of the ’57 Chevy, that changed the world forever!
5. The Used to Only Sell Bottles of Coke
It may seem unheard of but for it’s first decade In-N-Out Burger actually didn’t sell fountain pop to it’s thirsty customers. Instead they’d sell ice cold bottles of coke, which for whatever reason just seem to taste a lot better. However, it was a huge inconvenience to all involved, especially if you were trying to open one with hamburger grease all over your hands, so in 1958 In-N-Out Burger finally relented and started selling fountain soda. What’s even more strange (to people today) is that the price for a 12 ounce pop or soda was only ten cents and you were able to purchase either (or both) Coke and Pepsi at the same location! It was a simpler time where restaurants didn’t have exclusive contracts with soft drink companies so people were able to try competing sodas at the same restaurant. While that sounds great, they also didn’t have six kinds of Mountain Dew so perhaps we’ve got it better now after all. It is true, though, that Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola taste best when they’re nice and cold and coming out of an actual glass bottle. While it probably wasn’t the most convenient thing back in the day when people didn’t have cup holders, it does sound delicious enough for us at BabbleTop, which is located in Montreal, to road trip not only to the American Southwest but also to the late 1950’s! Does anyone have any gigawatts? Around 1.21 to be precise?
4. The Crossed Palm Trees
If you’ve ever seen the 1963 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World or the Cat Burglar Episode of the Simpsons (Where there’s “millions of dollars” buried under a Large T) then you’re familiar with the concept of a treasure being buried underneath trees or a sign that are shaped like a letter. That idea stuck with one of the founders of In-N-Out Burger in Harry Snyder as most of his restaurants have two palm trees that intersect one another in the shape of an ‘X’. In that film characters hunt for that X to find buried treasure and the idea is that the treasure at In-N-Out Burger is the food, so it’s just one of the more subtle and cool ways that the original Snyders branded their restaurants and made them feel extra special. The true question becomes how many people have actually started digging between those trees because you never know, there could be a hamburger down there. Yum. That also probably explains why they haven’t expanded beyond the Southwestern part of the country as they can’t keep palm trees alive in the Rocky Mountains or the frozen tundra that is states like Minnesota.
3. They Love to Drag, Baby
Being a Southern California company, perhaps it should come as no surprise that In-N-Out Burger has a long association with drag racing, a sport that is quintessentially So-Cal. Founder Harry Snyder helped build a new drag racing track in Irwindale in 1965 by putting up 50 percent of it’s cost, which was more than just an act of kindness as he also ended up stocking all the concession stands with his burgers. That love of racing must be genetic as the Snyders only grand-child and current sole owner of In-N-Out Burger, Lynsi Snyder, spends a lot of time at the track as well but not solely as someone who loves watching the sport but as a driver as well. According to the National Hot Rod Association, she has competed in the Super Gas and Top Sportsman Division 7 categories. Of racing she says “I like an adrenaline rush”, and said that it was her fathers love of the track that got her into it. She also is an adept mechanic, fixing up her own cars, so if you ever want a delicious burger and an oil change, you know where to shop! Since they don’t actually offer franchise opportunities and have the concession stands stocked with their products it’d be interesting to see how they maintain their high level of quality in such a different location/set of circumstances. Either way, I can see Harry Snyder in heaven, driving a 10-second car whilst two fisting delicious In-N-Out Burger, burgers. Talk about living the dream!
2. In-N-Out University
If you’ve made it this far on this list you’ll know that one of the reasons that In-N-Out has resisted franchising its restaurants is that it wants to maintain a certain level of quality and control over it’s products. Beyond that, they tend to pay their employees a lot better than their competition does and now we know why, because they’re all college graduates. Which college, you ask? Well, that’s simple, we respond, the University of In-N-Out Burger. That’s right, In-N-Out Burger has it’s own “University”, which aims to train service staff and manager on how to maintain that quality across the board and was established in 1984. According to Bloomberg Business, about 80 percent of In-N-Out Burger managers graduated from In-N-Out Burger University and considering that managers can (and often do, see above) make six figures a year, it looks like the investment was well worthwhile. That also means that if their employees were to ever leave, for some reason, they’d have a much better resume than a lot of their competitors from other fast food restaurants. That means that In-N-Out Burger is the gift that keeps on giving!
1. It was the Muse for a Classic Rock Album
Thus far you’ve learned that In-N-Out Burger is still privately owned, pays it’s employees a ton of money both as compared to other employees in the industry and in general, has it’s own university, was founded by some newlyweds and was a pioneer in drive-through technology. However we’ve saved the most interesting piece of information for last as it turns out that In-N-Out Burger was responsible for one of the best Rock albums of the 1980’s. In the book In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain that Breaks All the Rules, it’s stated that Van Halen’s 1986 chart-topping album, 5150, was basically fueled by nothing but In-N-Out Burgers (and we assume some cocaine). Former Van Halen lead signer Sammy Hagar said in the book: “When I first joined the band, we must have eaten there at least three days a week,We were in the studio recording 5150, and we’d send someone to go get food, and we’d talk about sushi or pizza and always end up with In-N-Out.” Talk about Rock-N-Roll… Wait… Rock-N-Roll, In-N-Out… It all makes sense now!