Tricks of the trade: lessons from In-N-Out

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Grace Ballor
Contributing Writer

The popular West-Coast burger chain, In-N-Out, is currently under construction on MacArthur, just north of Highway 114. In-N-Out is competing against several other burger chains in the area, including Five Guys and Whataburger.
----------------------Photo by Danny Sauer---------------------Popular West-Coast burger chain, In-N-Out, is currently under construction on MacArthur, just north of Highway 114. In-N-Out is competing against several other burger chains in the area, including Five Guys and Whataburger.

The favorite California-based burger chain is opening several new In-N-Out locations across Dallas this fall. The next opener will be in our very own Las Colinas (on MacArthur, just north of 114). While In-N-Out draws crowds with its tasty milkshakes and mouthwatering cheeseburgers, the family-owned restaurant has more to offer than these edibles.  Underlying its business are three tricks of the trade which are worth noting for entrepreneurs in any industry.

1. In-N-Out aims for quality, not quantity. Their menu is quite small, but their efficient ordering of ingredients and superbly trained staff allow them to sell much better burgers at the same price as McDonalds ($1.65).

2. In-N-Out specializes better than a Chem major at a state school. Sure, they know that some customers want a chicken sandwich instead of a beef patty, but the restaurant has clung to the belief that specialization wins out in the end. They offer only a handful of entree options, but they do all of them well. In order to satisfy more customers cost-effectively, though, In-N-Out has created items like the “protein-style burger,” which is simply a regular patty and condiments wrapped in lettuce rather than in a traditional bun. This way, even a blonde on a So-Cal diet can enjoy In-N-Out without maxing out her weekly carb allowance in one sitting. With creative tricks like this one, In-N-Out can retain a larger customer base without any extra expenses, since lettuce is already in their list of regular ingredients.

3. In-N-Out rocks at marketing and branding. The very fact that their name is a slogan for the fast food ideal (in and out!) is marketing in itself. From a branding perspective, the whole crossed-palm-trees thing might look funny in a Dallas suburb, but In-N-Out’s commitment to their simple, yet effective brand has worked so well that the company hasn’t felt the need to make a change since its inception in 1948. Few logos stick around that long anymore (think Chick-fil-A, Old Spice and Taco Bell.)

In short, In-N-Out is well on its way to spreading California sunshine across the nation. Go get your fill at the MacArthur opening in the coming weeks. (The exact date remains, for now, a tantalizing mystery.) And while you’re there, just remember that their success is due in large part to the fact that sometimes, you just want a burger – without having to navigate your way around a menu that also includes Chinese chicken salad.

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