You should listen to this NPR story online, about the fast food chain In-N-Out. I’m not much into fast food burgers, but when I lived in Phoenix, I loved In-N-Out. There’s a story to be told about not compromising on quality ingredients — never frozen ingredients, fresh hand cut potatoes, etc. As Samuel L. Jackson might have said, from Pulp Fiction, “That IS a tasty hamburger.” There’s another blog post begging to be written, also, about the simplicity of their menu — hamburgers, fries, sodas, and shakes. No McRibs or Nuggets or other culinary monstrosities. Given the simple menu, it’s all true build-to-order with ultimate customization possible (including a lettuce-wrapped bun-free “low carb” option).
The real story about In-N-Out is about how they treat their employees. The privately-held, family-run company (that might have something to do with it) is famous for paying wages much higher than the minimum wage and much higher than competitors. They start employees at almost $10, quite a premium over all the other fast food places that are trying to get the cheapest labor possible.
The NPR story points out that In-N-Out gets their first choice of the best employees for that segment of the labor market. Turnover is much lower than other fast food restaurants (I hate to put In-N-Out in that category, it’s so much better).
But the thing that really jumped out at me was a brief exchange with a college-age worker who left a job with a law firm to work at In-N-Out. Not only was the pay better, but they treat him with RESPECT at In-N-Out.
Respect for people — a key cornerstone of the Toyota Production System. Toyota’s not looking for the cheapest labor either. It’s more important to have reliable, quality employees and some stability so you’re not always having to train new people.
The results show — it’s privately held, but In-N-Out does very well financial. And, the results show as a customer — friendly employees and great service. In-N-Out inspires amazing loyalty among their customers. I wish they could expand to Texas, but as the Wikipedia article points out, they are committed to never freezing their beef, which means stores have to be within a certain driving distance of their California meat packing plant. If you live on the East Coast, you’ll never experience an In-N-Out burger… but if you ever go west, you HAVE to try it.
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