In-N-Out, the cult favourite burger joint of the West Coast, has been teasing the East Coast with rumours of expansion for years.
The fast food retailer has slowly expanded eastward over its 65-year lifetime to Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and most recently Texas. The company has also been holding “pop-up shops” around the world, where burgers tend to sell out within minutes.
All signs seemingly point to a plan for expansion.
But there are four major factors making it highly unlikely that East Coasters will get to experience the joy of an In-N-Out in their neighbourhood any time soon.
1. Quality control: There are no freezers or microwaves in any In-N-Out restaurants because the company has a strict policy of serving its food fresh. Therefore, all locations must be close to its distribution facilities, which are in Baldwin Park, Calif. and Dallas, Texas.
“At In-N-Out Burger, we make all of our hamburger patties ourselves and deliver them fresh to all of our restaurants with our own delivery vehicles,” In-N-Out Vice President of Planning and Development Carl Van Fleet told Business Insider. “Nothing is ever frozen. Our new restaurant locations are limited by the distance we can travel from our patty making facilities and distribution centres.”
In-N-Out owner Lynsi Torres says the burger chain’s quality is what sets it apart from competitors.
“We’re not changing things like many other companies do,” she told The OC Register in a February 2013 interview. “That’s kept us unique; it’s kept the customers feeling like we’re not a sellout.”
2. Exclusivity: Everything has more appeal when it’s not available to everyone, and the exclusivity of In-N-Out is what has helped the restaurant gain such a rabid following of fans.
In response to pleading from a local politician for an In-N-Out to open in Denver, Van Fleet made it clear the company isn’t planning to expand.
“You continue to give us the biggest compliment possible with your efforts to interest us in Colorado,” he wrote in a letter obtained by The Denver Post. “That said, at this time, we’re still not looking to add a sixth state and we’re just focusing our growth efforts in the five states where we currently operate.”
3. Competition: The East Coast has a number burger joints that would offer tough competition for In-N-Out, including Shake Shack and Five Guys.
4. No franchising: In-N-Out is a family-owned company that doesn’t believe in franchising. A large-scale expansion without franchising would require a massive amount of up-front capital from the company.
“In-N-Out remains privately owned and the Snyder family has no plans to take the company public or franchise any units,” the company reaffirms on its website.
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