When I pull up to a double line up of cars extending out to the street and beyond, I can’t help but ask myself, why is In-n-Out Burger so successful?
How is it that you can build such an empire with essentially 3 simple products. A burger, fries, and a soda… (or a Neapolitan shake if you’re my kids)
Even without going public or franchising its operations, In-N-Out Burger has managed to maintain its place as a staple in the American west coast. The burger joint has maintained a popular following for over 70 years, and this shows no sign of slowing down.
This leaves many others like myself to wonder how the regional chain has remained so popular over the years. Truth be told, there are a variety of reasons.
History of In-N-Out Burger
To fully understand the popularity and success of In-N-Out Burger, it’s important to look back at their history. After all, it’s the founders’ original vision that built the brand that people know and love.
Harry and Esther Snyder founded the company in 1948. Their inaugural location was in Los Angeles, and it was there they introduced California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand.
This forward thinking is a huge part of why the restaurant remains a success. The Snyders ignored the appeal of quick expansion and instead focused on only running an amount of locations that they could closely manage. This was a novel idea at the time, but it allowed the couple to ensure their quality never faltered. Customers knew to expect great food and service regardless of which location they visited.
The chain has also remained within the family since its inception. By the time the Snyder’s son Rich took over in 1976, there were 18 restaurants in the Los Angeles area. San Diego County was home to the first location outside of L.A., and 1992 saw the first opening of a non-California restaurant in Las Vegas. There were 93 restaurants by 1996, but by the end of 2018, this had increased to 342.
Keeping with the family tradition, the Snyder’s only grandchild, Lynsi, is the current owner.
In-N-Out Burger Company Culture
The historical innovation and focus on maintaining quality go a long way in explaining In-N-Out Burger’s success, but there’s obviously more to it. Another big part is their employees.
The restaurant constantly maintains high marks from customers, and this would be impossible without stellar workers. What is it, though, that makes these employees so great?
When it comes down to it, the company culture can fully explain it. In-N-Out has always paid its employees more than the required minimum wage. Studies consistently show that workers who receive fair wages are happier, more productive and more loyal to a brand. These relatively high wages also do wonders at attracting the best talent at all levels of the organization.
Additionally, other perks such as paid vacation, flexible scheduling and a focus on promoting from within keep workers happy. One look at the company’s Glassdoor page shows that employee ratings are higher than at most businesses. In fact, the biggest complaint is that it sometimes gets busy in the restaurant, but workers on the site say even this is manageable.
Science proves it: happy employees equate to happy guests. In-N-Out Burger is unmatched in this area.
What It’s Like To Work At In-N-Out
In-N-Out Burger was founded in 1948 by the Synder family and remains privately owned by them to this day. Over the years, the chain has earned itself a reputation for serving quality made-to-order fast food and going above and beyond to look after their employees – but what is it really like to work there?
Getting a job at In-N-Out
With 358 locations primarily across California and the Southwest, In-N-Out burger is virtually constantly hiring in one way or another – but how can you secure a job? Well, one former In-N-Out manager claims that, like most jobs, it’s best to know someone on the inside who can put your forward through the companies ‘Multiplying Winner’s’ scheme. By applying through In-N-Out’s Multiplying Winner’s scheme, you’re most likely to get an interview, and what’s more; if you get hired, then the person who put you forward will get a bonus. If you don’t know anyone on the inside, then all hope is not lost; you can still apply for vacancies via their website.
The In-N-Out interview
If you make it through the companies initial screening, then you will progress to the interview stage. During your interview, In-N-Out tend to ask variations on the same questions to gauge your knowledge of the brand and your suitability for the roll. Here are some of the most common In-N-Out interview questions.
- Can you tell us about yourself?
- Can you tell us about In-N-Out burger?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What would you do if a customer was not happy?
- Why should we hire you?
You can find some suggested answers and a few more possible interview questions here.
What can you expect to get paid working at In-n-Out?
The salaries at In-N-Out Burger vary depending on your role and your experience in the company, but on average you can expect to be paid roughly;
- $13-14 per hour as a cashier
- $13-14 as a host or hostess
- $13-14 as a fry cook
- $15-16 as an associate manager.
Benefits working at In-n-Out
In addition to offering employees some of the more competitive fast-food salaries, In-N-Out are also known for there generous benefits package. All employees working at an In-N-Out restaurant receive one free meal per shift (possibly two depending on their hours worked) and are also eligible for 15% off in-store, but in addition to this, both full and part-time workers can accrue paid holiday and sick leave.
Both full and part-time In-N-Out associates, and their eligible dependents, are eligible for a range of healthcare benefits as well as basic and voluntary life AD&D.
Depending on the time that they have been working for In-N-Out, full-time workers can also accrue paid sick leave at a rate of six days per year.
As for paid vacation, full-time employees can expect the following;
|Time working for In-N-Out||Paid vacation accrual|
|1-5 years||2 weeks|
|6-15 years||3 weeks|
|16+ years||4 weeks|
And part-time employees can accrue vacation at a rate of 1 week per year based o the number of hours that they work.
In-n-Out Career advancement
If you’ve spent any time looking at the In-N-Out recruitment page, then you’ll notice that stores only seem to hire for associate positions. This is because all managers start at Level 1 and must work their way up to management positions – no one is ever hired from the outside for managerial roles. This policy helps In-N-Out to ensure that its managers understand all of the other job-roles in the store and also builds a hard-working and progression led company culture.
If you work at an In-N-Out Burger, you can expect to be thrown into a fast-paced and hard-working environment that relies heavily on its unity and sense of family. For each restaurant to operate effectively, each team member needs to work together, and so to build this teamwork, managers are encouraged to create a friendly and cohesive culture by celebrating employees’ birthdays and organizing team parties, etc.
The pros and cons of working at In-N-Out Burger
Like all jobs, there are pros and cons to consider. Here are some of the most important.
- A competitive salary.
- Paid vacation.
- Paid sick leave (if you are full time).
- Good career advancement opportunities.
- Great place to learn work ethic.
- Great culture.
Cons (Depending on your personality)
- Busy and fast-paced environment – expect to work hard.
- Management has high expectations.
- Part-time workers often get short shifts.
- Benefits are limited for part-time workers – even if they take over time.
Secrets of In-N-Out Burger
Great customer service, delicious food and happy employees are all easy to see from the surface. As it turns out, though, there are also hidden gems that keep people coming back.
One of the big aspects that outsiders usually don’t know of is the workflow. Food is made-to-order, but patties are prepared in advance by predicting upcoming demand.
Conversely, the ever-popular fries at the chain are only cut and replenished based on current levels available.
Maybe the most novel idea of the workflow, however, takes a page from the carhop culture of the past. When the drive-thru line gets especially long, employees run outside and take orders directly from customers.
Of course, most people think of only one thing when they hear “secrets of In-N-Out Burger”: the secret menu. Here are just a few of the items that aren’t on the regular menu that guests still get to enjoy:
- Animal Style Burger: The mustard-grilled patty, extra Thousand Island spread, grilled onions and additional pickles make this a popular alternative to the regular burger.
- 3×3 Burger: For those who don’t think one – or even two – patties is enough, the 3×3 Burger is the massive answer to their prayers.
- Root Beer Float: Soda just doesn’t cut it for some people. For those individuals, a Root Beer Float is available on the secret menu.
- 4×4 Burger: If three patties aren’t enough, four must surely be!
- Grilled Cheese: Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like.
- Protein Style: After the Animal Style Burger, this is the most popular option on the In-N-Out Burger secret menu. They merely take the hamburger and put it in a lettuce wrap rather than a bun.
The secrets of In-N-Out Burger are many, but the truth is that they never keep their customers in the dark.
So, Why is In-N-Out So Popular?
In essence, the popularity of In-N-Out Burger is derived from its customer-focused atmosphere. Unlike other companies, who strive to expand as quickly as possible, this beloved fast food chain works to maintain great food and service. By not franchising their locations, they can ensure that customers receive consistency across the region.
Then again, maybe it’s the simpler things in life. Anyone who has looked at the bottom of their soda cup is greeted with an inspiring verse from scripture. There are no doubt many who would love this restaurant just because they stay true to this particular value.
Regardless of how one looks at it, though, it’s the values they convey through every aspect of their culture that has created a mass following.
Why In-N-Out Won’t Franchise
It’s a rarity to find a world famous chain of fast food restaurants that exist exclusively in a relatively small region of the USA. Since it was first established in 1948, In-N-Out Burger has served its burgers and fries predominantly in the west coast. It’s a restaurant business that’s steeped in family tradition, and unlike many successful fast food chains, it has never lost its roots.
The debate for America’s greatest burger generally features In-N-Out, and due to its west coast exclusivity, there is somewhat of a regional loyalty associated with it. Although In-N-Out expanded outward from California in 1992, other than a select number of Texas based restaurants, the majority of their establishments are located within 300 miles of their California patty making facilities.
While the demand for their food continues to rise, the company is expanding. However, this doesn’t mean that they intend to have restaurants in every state. In fact, In-N-Out owner and president, Lynsi Snyder claimed that you won’t see them appear on the west coast in her lifetime.
“Take Texas – draw a line up and just stick to the left. That’s in my lifetime… I like that we’re unique. That we’re not on every corner. You put us in every state and it takes away some of its luster.” Snyder said in a 2018 interview.
Snyder also spoke about franchising and reiterated that In-N-Out burger would never franchise. There are a couple of key reasons for this decision. The first revolves around their quality standards, and the second is to do with their business model.
In-N-Out Quality Standards
In-N-Out Burger has certain policies, procedures and quality standards that are quite unique to a company in their position.
They pride themselves on serving the highest quality of meat in their patties. Their meat is never frozen and is freshly delivered daily to each of their restaurants. They create the burger patties in their own patty-making facilities, controlling the entire process, and ensuring their quality standards are met.
All restaurants must be located within 300 miles of their facilities, which are exclusive to California and Texas at present.
Their freshness and quality commitments go beyond their patties. All food served is fresh, hand prepared, and of high quality. Their restaurants don’t have microwaves, freezers, or heating lamps.
While their menu famously consists of only 15 items, their focus is on delivering the best possible versions of each of these options.
In-N-Out Business Model
In-N-Out aren’t driven solely by profit. Their goals don’t revolve around making money for themselves or becoming the biggest fast food chain in the world. Their business model revolves around certain principles and standards that have deep roots within the company.
Their exclusivity adds to the allure of the restaurant. They aren’t available to everyone at all times, increasing their desirability.
Expanding to the east coast would see a major increase in competition for In-N-Out. This could be harmful to the brand and would make their gold standards harder to carry through.
In-N-Out has a clear mission and vision. As a family owned restaurant, loyalty and tradition are at the heart of every decision. The goals of the business go beyond dollars and cents, making it highly unlikely that we see In-N-Out franchise.
Slow but Steady, Coming to America
Although many see In-N-Out Burger as a purely western fast food chain, and they won’t likely ever franchise, the fact remains that they’re growing across the country. They’ve made it as far east as Texas and as far north as Oregon, and while they maintain their stance of avoiding quick expansion, the chance exists that they’ll one day be a national brand. Considering the customer-focused business practices they use, nationwide appeal is exactly what they deserve.
And yes… they’re better than Shake Shack. 🍔🍟🥤