Published April 2009 by Harper Business|345 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
In fast-food corporate America, In-N-Out Burger stands apart. Begun in a tiny shack in the shadow of World War II, this family-owned chain has steadfastly refused to franchise or be sold. It is a testament to old-fashioned values and reminiscent of a simpler time when people, loyalty, and a freshly made, juicy hamburger meant something. Over time, In-N-Out Burger has become nothing less than a cultural institution that can lay claim to an insanely loyal following.
Perman uses her investigative skills to uncover the story of a real American success story. It is not only a tale of a unique and profitable business that exceeds all expectations, but of a family’s struggle to maintain a sustainable pop empire against the industry it helped pioneer, internal tensions, and a bitter lawsuit that threatened to bring the company to the brink.
This is a lesson in a counterintuitive approach to doing business that places quality, customers, and employees over the riches promised by rapid expansion. In-N-Out Burger is a keenly observed narrative that explores the evolution of a California fad that transformed into an enduring cult of popularity; it is also the story of the conflicted, secretive, and ultimately tragic Snyder family who cooked a billion burgers and hooked a zillion fans. As the story of In-N-Out Burger unfolds, so too does the cultural history of America as influenced and shaped by car culture and fast food.
As a Southern Californian, I’m super-familiar with In-N-Out but not the story behind the company or the family that owns/founded In-N-Out, so when I saw this book at the library, I knew I had to read it!
Parts of the book were completely fascinating, but overall, it was just okay for me.
I think it’s important to note that Perman was unable to talk to In-N-Out, but she did interview a lot of other people, as well as look at Census Bureau records. Unfortunately, I’ve returned the copy back to the library, so I couldn’t tell you all of the work she put into researching, but what I’ve mentioned is all I can remember as far as that goes. Still, she had plenty of material to work with, but it would have been really interesting if she could have interviewed the family.
It is a really interesting look at the coupe who started In-N-Out, and it’s as about them and how the company because the company we know today as it is about the fast food industry. What really stood out was how important the quality of ingredients were, and how Snyder had a really good relationship spanning decades with the vendors. What also stands out is how important good customer service was, how important good wages and promoting from within are, and how important it is to do something really well. And that staying small is really important too.
I didn’t know that they were such good friends with the Karchers, the family that founded Carl’s Jr., but it was interesting that they saw each other as colleagues and friends, not competitors.
It is more business-y than I was expecting, and that made it a little bit hard to get through at times, especially when Perman was talking about the trusts put in place to make sure that it stays in the family. I also think that it’s a book a lot of people might find interesting to some degree (even people who have never been to In-N-Out) but I think it’s devoted legions of fans will find it super-interesting.
2 stars. While there were a few interesting things in the book, it was more business-y than I thought it would be, and the book did get bogged down in that.