Great Marketing Concept Behind In-N-Out | W3 Lab

Great Marketing Concept Behind In-N-Out

Before we begin, I have one question for you: would you travel for 4 hours on a plane to eat your favorite burger?

Probably not. I’m almost positive the answer is no. Unless you’ve had an In-N-Out burger before. If you were to respond with yes to my question, you wouldn’t be the only one.

in n out restaurant marketing

This is normal behavior for In-N-Out lovers. Imagine the biggest McDonald’s lovers. There are so many more people like that when it comes to In-N-Out.

In this blog, I will try to explain why.

Source: istolethetv

It’s going to be a little long, so I advise you to free up 11 minutes and 42 seconds so you can read it. These 42 seconds were there to keep you interested and put a smile on your face.

Did I succeed in that?

Great, we can start now.

Basic information about this phenomenon

To understand why this fast-food franchise is so special, let’s start from how fast it’s spreading.

The short answer is: it’s not spreading that fast. In better words, the owner is making this process slow on purpose.

fast food burgers

Can you guess how many Subway locations get opened every day?

The answer is 7! When Subway was at its peak, they were opening new locations every 3.5 hours! Can you imagine that speed?

How fast does In-N-Out spread?

Since it was formed back in 1948 until today, it’s been spreading 4.8 locations per year on average. This means that at this moment, there are 347 locations in total.

Because of its very slow expansion, In-N-Out is losing money that they could get so easily. But they’re not doing this because they are unable to open new locations. They are doing it on purpose.

Keep on reading to find out why.

A small, but great menu

When we go to McDonald’s, we can choose between a few hundred food variations. This isn’t the case when it comes to In-N-Out.

in n out menu
In-N-Out menu | Source: Ryosuke Hosoi

Their menu is very simple and contains 20 different items:

  • Hamburger
  • Double Double – two variations
  • Fries
  • Shake – 3 types
  • 9 kinds of beverages

The biggest food chains have more beverages than In-N-Out has menu options. The menu is small, but that’s what makes it great.

in n out burgers and fries
Source: whatleydude

Other franchises are used to introducing different menu items for every holiday or event, but the hero of our story doesn’t work that way. It changed its menu only for a few times in the 71 years of its existence and people like this – when someone is consistent. If a menu item changes once in a generation, they will appreciate a brand more. This is one of the reasons why people love In-N-Out.

But the menu is only part of why people love this fast-food chain. We’ll talk about the other reasons in the following paragraph.

Consumer experience is more important than the food

The people responsible for this ‘small’ franchise realized that the consumer’s experience with their brand matters more than the food itself.

Therefore, every In-N-Out location has driveways and plants (mostly palm trees) in every location and they all look almost identical.

marketing interior of in n out
Interior of In-N-Out

Remember when I mentioned how they don’t have an abundance of locations on purpose? This makes it possible for them to control how each location looks like so they can make them look similar.

When the interior is always clean and the workers have smiles on their faces – you will want to eat at that place again.

The Texas case with the stale buns

The commitment of the owners really shines in this case, where they closed all the locations in Texas only because of stale buns.

The managers and people in charge of the quality of the products simply weren’t satisfied with the overall quality, so they closed all the locations for 48 hours until fresh buns arrived.

texas case

You’ll also like this – from the 6 categories of employees, only a single category is allowed to work the grill.

And to be able to work the grill in this franchise, you have to go to training that lasts 3 – 6 months, where they teach you how to grill patties. This would make you the Spongebob of that city – the person who makes the best burgers.

When you know that a person who trained for months to make you a burger will be making your burger, you’ll never want to eat at another place ever again.

traffic because of in n out
Source: faungg’s photos

Another thing – the average In-N-Out manager career lasts for 14 years! When you think about it, it makes sense because they get paid from $160k to $240k, depending on how well they do their jobs.

All the employees love working in In-N-Out, they are paid above the minimum, they have benefits, vacation days, health and social insurance… All a worker could ever want.

The danger of people suddenly wanting a healthy food

We mentioned the ‘Texas case’ and we’ve seen how much they care about having the same menu after 70 years. In the next chapter, we will talk about how they always manage to always have fresh ingredients, but in this chapter, there will be a word about a potential danger for this business: healthy food.

potential danger for hamburger business
Source: OakleyOriginals

We’re noticing a trend, especially in the USA, where people have been looking for healthy alternatives for the food they’re eating. What if the lovers of this franchise start demanding vegan burgers? Will In-N-Out grant them this wish?

As far as I can see, the owners know exactly what they want, so I don’t think they would change their menu that easily. But I’m sure there will be a compromise when they see an abundance of their customers leaving and eating their competitor’s healthy options.

in n out menu
Source: Rachel Haller

McDonald’s works fast and they would be able to introduce a few new menu items in a month all over the world, while In-N-Out is a bit slower when it comes to changing their menu, which could possibly damage their brand in the future.

600 miles from the distribution center or no new location

We constantly hear about how we shouldn’t eat at ‘evil corporations because all they do is poison us’, but In-N-Out isn’t one of them.

They don’t have freezers and microwaves in their locations, and all of their ingredients are fresh because they have one rule – the location cannot be more than 600 miles away from the distribution center.

distribution center in n out
Source: alex roberts

A distribution center is where all the mixtures are made, and where they process different ingredients for their products which they then send to their locations.

This way, they manage to send only the freshest ingredients to all of their 347 locations.

Word-of-Mouth & celebrity marketing

After all of these great things we spoke about that make this ‘small’ franchise special, how do you visit a city with their location and not try the hamburger which millions of people love?

franchise in n out
Source: Travis Rigel Lukas Hornung

This is what gives them the biggest advantage. A large number of people tell everyone how amazing their burgers, fries, and shakes are. They speak so highly of it like they’re its owners.

And we all know that this type of marketing is the hardest to earn. but is worth the most. There’s no better marketing than a recommendation, and In-N-Out certainly has it.

Celebrity In-N-Out fans

We can understand ‘ordinary’ people loving a certain franchise, but Paris Hilton driving herself to an In-N-Out because she wanted a burger than badly? That’s a whole new level of marketing.

What if I told you that 16 times Michelin star Gordon Ramsay is a huge In-N-Out fan?

As well as 20 other celebrities that prefer In-N-Out over any other restaurant?

celebrity at in n out
Source: Dick Thomas Johnson

This is the kind of marketing that million-dollar campaigns cannot bring. It is what convinces people that In-N-Out has the best food.


You have to be unique in order to stand out in a sea of franchises that have been in the market for decades and the new ones that appear every day. The more unique you are, the more people will appreciate your brand.

In-N-Out succeeded in transforming a fast-food chain into a cult of people who love their burgers.

Be like In-N-Out – make ordinary things special.

Thanks for reading.

Related: 5 Marketing Concepts – Philosophies!

Mateja Simić
Mateja Simić

Believes that Instagram is the best thing in world ever. Clearly he has never tasted beer.

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