The Reason In-N-Out Has Stayed Virtually the Same Throughout The Years

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 26, 2024

While the world has changed drastically over the past century, one thing has stayed almost exactly the same: In-N-Out Burger.

Many people don’t know that the famous California chain has been around since 1948, and since the very first day the restaurant opened, In-N-Out’s ingredients, menu, and system have stayed virtually the same.

The History of In-N-Out Burger

Harry and Esther Snyder opened the first ever In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, California in 1948. They had a simple menu of burgers, fries, and fountain sodas, all made with fresh ingredients and ready just moments after a customer ordered.

A photograph of the original In-N-Out Burger restaurant in Baldwin Park, California

Source: @In-N-Out Burger/Facebook

While, at that time, a fast food burger restaurant wasn’t a totally unique idea, the Snyders created something no one had ever seen before.

In-N-Out Burger Was the First Drive-Thru in America

When thinking of fast food, the first word that often comes to mind is America and the second is drive-thru. For many people, one of the best features of fast food is that they don’t even have to get out of their car to order or get their meal.

A photograph of an In-N-Out restaurant from the 1960s

Source: @In-N-Out Burger/Facebook

Even though millions of Americans use a drive-thru window every day, very few know that the first ever drive-thru in the United States was built by the Snyders at the very first In-N-Out Burger.

The Drive-Thru Made In-N-Out Unique

In 1948, the drive-thru, complete with a two-way microphone, made In-N-Out unique among its competitors. But the restaurant offered far more than just novelty and convenience.

Two In-N-Out burgers with sides of french fries on a red tray

Source: Reddit

In-N-Out’s menu was simple and its food was always prepared with fresh, never frozen ingredients. With a delicious product, as well as the ability to order and eat from one’s car, it wasn’t long before In-N-Out opened several more locations around Los Angeles.

In-N-Out Finds Extreme Success in Southern California

In 1951, they opened their second location, but the Snyders made the conscious choice to expand slowly, in order to ensure their high quality standard was maintained everywhere

A photograph of employees working in an In-N-Out kitchen

Source: @hoohoohoblin/YouTube

By the 1970s, there were 18 locations throughout Southern California; in 1988, they had successfully opened they’re 50th site. Now, in 2024, there are a total of 417 In-N-Out restaurants.

In-N-Out Chose to Stay Close to California to Keep Its Quality Intact

After founder Harry Snyder passed away, his son Rich Snyder took over as president of the In-N-Out company. Harry held the same values for the restaurants that his parents did and wanted to ensure that every location they opened provided customers with the same high quality food they could find at the original restaurant.

A photograph of a hamburger with the various ingredients around it

Source: Freepik

Therefore, the next generation of Snyders decided they would keep In-N-Outs either in or very close to California so they could continue to use their same distributors without ever having to freeze their ingredients. Of the 417 restaurants today, 286 are in the Golden State and the others can be found in Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.


The In-N-Out Menu Has Been the Same for Nearly 100 Years

In addition to ensuring the ingredients and food quality remained the same throughout the growing number of restaurants over the years, In-N-Out has also kept virtually the same menu that Harry Snyder created almost 100 years ago.

A photograph of In-N-Out’s famous simple menu

Source: Reddit

A hamburger, cheeseburger, french fries, and fountain sodas were the only available items in 1948, and today, the menu looks almost identical. Albeit with a few (sometimes secret) changes.


Releasing the Famous In-N-Out Double Double

Arguably the most significant change to In-N-Out’s menu during its seven decade history was the addition of the Double Double burger. It appeared in 1963, when the few restaurants hung banners out encouraging customers to try the new menu item.

A photograph of In-N-Out’s famous 3x3 burger

Source: Reddit

The Double Double has, you guessed it, double meat and double cheese, and has since become the most popular item across all the chain’s 417 locations.


In-N-Out Added Milkshakes to Their Menu

One of the other “big” changes In-N-Out has ever made to its menu was simply adding milkshakes. They also added pink lemonade and hot chocolate at one point.

A photograph of an In-N-Out milkshake

Source: @WrecklessEating/YouTube

But other than those drinks, as well as bottled water and sodas when they became widely available, the original menu has remained the same for almost a century.


In-N-Outs Not-So-Secret Menu

While the visible menu at the restaurants has stayed almost completely the same, In-N-Out’s secret menu has changed and grown over the years. The “secret menu” was once actually a secret; only those privy to the inner workings of the restaurant knew there were order-able items not on the displayed menu.

A photograph of In-N-Out’s famous “Not So Secret Menu”

Source: Reddit

However, over the years, the menu became a not-so-secret menu, and it’s even on the company website. Almost everyone who visits an In-N-Out now knows that they can get their burger “animal style” which means the patty is cooked in mustard, and it comes with pickled and grilled onions.


Other Fast Food Chains Haven’t Followed In-N-Out’s Method for Success

Although In-N-Out doesn’t have nearly as many restaurants as some of its competitors, like McDonald’s or Five Guys, the company has remained wildly successful for several decades.

A photograph of a McDonald’s employee giving a bag of food to a customer through the drive-thru window

Source: Adobe Stock

While other companies focus on new menu items, making their food cheaper, faster, and more exciting, In-N-Out has always put quality above all else, and it’s proven to be a fantastic business model.


In-N-Out: A California Treasure

In-N-Out has some of the most loyal customers of any chain on the planet, and many say that a visit to the Golden State isn’t complete without trying an “Animal Style Double Double.”

A photograph of an In-N-Out restaurant next to the Los Angeles International Airport in California

Source: Reddit

This company is a perfect example of the well-known phrase “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” In-N-Out developed an incredible business model and menu 75 years ago, and they will likely continue to provide the same perfect service and food for another seven decades.