(KTLA) — Once an exclusive treat only for Southern Californians and visitors, In-N-Out Burger is now primed for a major expansion eastward.
In January, the Baldwin Park-based fast food chain, which is celebrating its 75th year in business, announced it would open restaurants and a corporate office in Tennessee by 2026. That would make West Virginians’ drive to the closest In-N-Out just over six hours instead of just over 15 hours to Rockwall, Texas.
“We get a lot of requests in different states to open, and I’m very happy to meet the customers here and make their dreams come true,” said Lynsi Snyder, the company’s owner and granddaughter of founders Harry and Esther Snyder, at a news conference with Tennessee’s governor.
The Volunteer State will be the eighth where diners can enjoy In-N-Out’s extraordinarily simple menu of burgers, fries, soft drinks and milkshakes. But within Snyder’s remarks came something unexpected: that In-N-Out has even more states in its sights.
The Tennessee locations will be served by the company’s distribution hub in Texas, where it expanded in 2011. This means delivery trucks will traverse several states not currently on In-N-Out’s map.
“There’s a path there that might cross a few other states. So don’t worry, there are others that will be included in this plan eventually,” Snyder said, which certainly whet the appetite of In-N-Out fans in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Alabama. She didn’t offer any more specifics.
In-N-Out’s story is unique in the world of fast food giants. Where some restaurants burst onto the scene and expanded rapidly nationwide, the Snyder family has opted for a much slower approach.
The very first In-N-Out Burger opened in 1948 as a tiny stand at Francisquito and Garvey Avenues in Baldwin Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. Harry and Esther Snyder are credited with inventing the world’s first drive-thru with a two-way speaker box that same year.
Over the next three decades, In-N-Out would gradually expand its footprint in the region.
When he passed away in 1976, Harry’s empire was limited to 18 restaurants in the Los Angeles area. It would be up to his widow and their two sons, Rich and Guy, to carry on the legacy.
Despite the chain’s growing popularity in the Los Angeles area, rapid expansion was still not on the menu.
It wasn’t until 1992 that the Snyders stepped beyond California’s borders, opening a restaurant in Las Vegas. In 2000, Arizona saw its first Double-Double Combo with a restaurant in Lake Havasu City.
Rich and Guy Snyder died in 1993 and 1999, respectively. Esther died in 2006 and, four years later, Lynsi Snyder became president of the family business.
By 2015, In-N-Out had restaurants in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas and Oregon.
Colorado would get its first location in 2020.
As of 2023, it has 385 locations across the western half of the nation, and perpetually long drive-thru lines are a testament to the company’s enduring success.
“In my books, I always use In-N-Out as an example of how to run a business — of any sort,” says George Geary, an award-winning chef and author of Made in California: The California-Born Diners, Burger Joints, Restaurants & Fast Food that Changed America. “They have five products they do really well, and that’s it.”
Geary credits In-N-Out’s cult-like following to its fresh, affordable food and its focus on customer service.
“Their whole drive-thru system is speedy and quick, and I don’t care how many cars are in line, it moves fast,” Geary says. “And you know they’re going to get your order right.”
Whatever the scale may be, Geary says he looks forward to seeing In-N-Out’s expansion plans play out.
“They want their (food) to be fresh, and they don’t use freezers. So if the truck can’t get from the processing plant to the furthest store, they aren’t going to open it.”
At January’s news conference, Lynsi Snyder, 41, acknowledged that she once said Texas would be the end of the line for In-N-Out’s expansion. Now, it appears to be a burger stand without borders.
“We’re going to do this the right way,” she said.