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Michael Sansolo wrote yesterday about the special charms of In-N-Out, a hamburger chain with units in just three states – California, Arizona and Nevada. In doing so, he apparently tapped into some sort of cult...

MNB user Mike Heinaman wrote:

As a former east coaster who recently moved to California after a brief stay in the Midwest, I was only recently introduced to In-N-Out and not only did I agree with Michael’s article, but I started thinking about whether or not there was an In-N-Out conveniently located for a stop on my drive home from work tonight. I usually try to avoid fast food, but their burgers seem more on par with a sit down restaurant than a place with a drive-through window. Plus, where else can you order something “animal style?”

Also, as a quick note to the point about the benefits of having friendly and helpful employees like Michael’s experiences at In-N-Out, my wife and I recently went shopping at a local grocery store that had just been remodeled, and, while we were impressed by the improved facility, our thoughts afterward were much more focused on the positive experience that we had with the employees. We had several personnel with genuine smiles asking us if we needed help, and even had someone from the meat department search the store for an ingredient that we were having problems finding. We were in a different chain’s store a few days later and also had a positive experience with the staff, so, out of the numerous choices in our area, we now have our two favorite places to stop already established.

MNB user Shawn Ravitz wrote:

Great Points... I am a big fan of In N Out. When I travel to LA, Phoenix, or Vegas, it is a guaranteed stop (even if I have to take a cab through drive thru).

One experience I have taken from them is to focus on one thing and do it exceptional! As a Wakefern member, our focus can easily get distracted by many things. In N Out is a great example of staying true to what you believe in, do it right, do it consistently and the biz will take care of itself.

MNB user Paul Gilbert wrote:

I can eat at a Wegmans any day I am in the office here in Rochester . But, I love cheeseburgers, I have an overwhelming desire to eat too many of them each week and I can only get a cheeseburger at one of them. Luckily, my weight and cholesterol levels all remain very good. I am always in pursuit of a great cheeseburger. I attend the Vegas ICSC each year and I have seen signs for In-N-Out burger but have never had one. After reading your story this morning, I am certain this May I will have my first In-N-Out burger. I cannot wait!

MNB user Chuck Burns wrote:

We moved to Colorado from California 2.5 years ago and one of the things we miss the most is In-N-Out. When we go back we make a point of stopping at the In-N-Out in Las Vegas; the first one we come to on the way to California. The quality of food is everything you said it was. My son worked there during high school and he spoke often about how they operate. The costly beefsteak tomatoes they buy, the lack of freezer in the store (everything is delivered fresh every night)., the buns that have to be a day old so they hold together better, the single source potatoes, the absolute cleanliness, and the emphasis on service.

The menu is simple; but there is a hidden menu too. I always got a “Protein Setup” in which they eliminate the bun and wrap the burger in lettuce leaves. You could ask for a burger without meat and get extra cheese and end up with a grilled cheese. “Animal Style” was with grilled mustard and onions, and the founder’s favorite was something called a “Flying Dutchman” which was a stack of five patties and cheese. If you are really hungry and a “Double Double” isn’t enough you can order a “3 x 3” or “4x 4”.

After my son had worked there a while his default expression became “Right On”. They install a “Can Do” attitude in these kids that is amazing. They hire in at higher wages and give regular raises as your skills grow. They work the kids hard and slackers and poor attitudes aren’t tolerated. One of their secrets may be how they treat, train and retain their managers. The manager in my son’s store was paid about 125,000 a year. Do you think that man had an incentive to do things right and keep his job. It is my impression that they grow in an organic fashion, no faster than they can self finance and generate quality managers that can instill and pass on their unique culture.

I think “Pride” may be a watchword at In-N-Out. They try to do everything right. This even extends to their delivery trucks. As you drive around California you will often see their trucks; decked out Peterbilts, gleaming white with In-N-Out graphics. It looks like they detail them daily.

In-N-Out is a great company and if they ever went public I’d be the first in line to buy stock.

MNB user Phyllis Palmer wrote:

Thanks for describing WHY on the In-N-Out obsession. I’ve never understood it. I live in Vegas, and have had experience after experience of friends from the East coast RAVING about In-N-Out and I just didn’t get it. Maybe it was because I don’t eat hamburgers (don’t get me wrong.. it has to do with a childhood experience of finding a roach baked in my hamburger bun at the grand opening of the 1st McDonalds in my western Maryland town). But you described the EXPERIENCE. THAT was the difference and now, I understand! Thanks.

MNB user Steve Ording wrote:

I read with interest your article about In-N-Out. I have traveled to the west coast many times and have heard of this chain but have never tried one myself. However if these are so good and they have such a cult following why aren’t they sold in grocery, vending or c-stores nationwide? I work for the oldest, finest fast food chain in the country with beyond a doubt the largest cult following in the country. I am quite sure you are familiar with White Castle. Our burgers are so good, so unique and such a part of American tradition that our cravers and cult followers can’t get enough no matter where they live!

That’s why today White Castle is sold in grocery stores, vending machines and c-stores not only in the 48 states but also Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, Philippines, Puerto Rico and several Caribbean Islands. This is indeed the proof of a great burger and loyal cult following. I can only hope you have had the extreme pleasure of dinning at one of our restaurants.

I’ll answer this one. I think that In-N-Out is not in supermarkets on purpose – that it runs counter to the “fresh” value proposition that is at the core of its culture.

BTW, I love White Castle…but while buying the burgers from the supermarket freezer case may build sales, I’m not entirely sure that it builds the company’s image…because they’re never, never as good. But that may just be my experience.

MNB user Dennis McCoy wrote:

Didn’t realize an easterner could really appreciate this place.. I grew up in California and remember when In-n-Out started. What I really had forgotten, probably an age thing, was how incredible they truly are. I love a great hamburger and your reference to Lipitor does identify how I have to cherish the few hamburgers that I can afford to eat per year. Given that I made two visits to In-n-Out during the visit to FMI in California and the first was a real disappointment because the line was so long and I was time pressed so I passed. Not wanting to allow that to happen again I watched closely for the next opportunity and my wife and I found that, and after the first bite we looked at each other and referenced that I can’t believe how great these are. Even better then we had remembered them, oh and I have had my share to remember from the past. This is one of those great food opportunities in this world. Thanks for the opportunity to reflect back on that moment.

MNB user R. Dale Blotter wrote:
I enjoy your daily blog and views on the state of the retail food world. I loved Sansolo’s column today on In-N-Out. I returned last week from a spring break vacation with family to LA and one of the first things we did upon arriving was to hit the In-N-Out for lunch. We lived in So Cal for 12 years and having an In-N-Out meal is one of the pleasures we truly miss. Like Mr. Sansolo, I try to make it to an In-N-Out whenever I am in their market area. Great burgers, fresh cut fires, great milk shakes and great service are truly the hallmarks of this operation. I’ve often wondered if part of their magic isn’t the fact that they don’t franchise but own all their stores and therefore control the product so well. Other food retailers would do well to learn from them.

Another MNB user wrote:

I share your enjoyment of the total experience. A long time customer suggested that I order the Double – Double Extra Messy. It is fabulous – once a quarter.

MNB is at the top of my Favorites list for daily review. Please keep it insightful and on the edge – we need it.

MNB user Jared Damiano wrote:

I wanted to drop you a quick email for two reasons. First, thank you for your article. My co-workers think that I am nuts when I make them plan to go to In-N-Out from the airport every time we are out west. Once we get there they understand why.

The second reason is to ask if you wouldn’t mind sharing the name of the small restaurant in New Orleans (mentioned in the column). I am traveling there in two weeks and would love to stop by.

Our pleasure.

Michael was speaking about Mother’s, which is a wonderful place for things like gumbo and red beans and rice.

I would add that the Acme Oyster House is one of my favorites, and you should also go to the Café du Monde for beignets and great coffee.

Then again, I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a New Orleans restaurant that I didn’t like.

But I won’t elaborate…because this clearly is a day for In-N-Out.

KC's View: