I spent a few years in California, and the pride and joy of the fast food industry in this state is In-N-Out Burger. I’ve also heard others from around the US mention that In-N-Out Burger is AMAZING, and if only there was an In-N-Out Burger where they lived! I don’t mean to start a fight, but I’m not that impressed with their burgers… don’t get me wrong, they’re tasty, but I can get great fast-food burgers from several different establishments in Texas. However, I can’t debate the success of their business model, as they’ve grown exponentially since their inception. A classmate of mine was kind enough to help me out with a link to a story in D Magazine about In-N-Out Burger coming to Dallas. So, what do I think about this latest fast food invasion?
In-N-Out Burger will be successful. Flat out, I can’t deny that In-N-Out Burger will be successful, and I think they’ll take DFW by storm. Texans love a good “local” business, as evidenced by the success of many In-N-Out Burger counterparts, including Raising Cane’s Chicken, Dr. Pepper, Whataburger, and Chic-Fil-A. Texas is a state with pride, and we love to see a company pull itself up by the boot straps and deliver some goodness to customers. In-N-Out does just that, with limited expansion over the last 50 years, and meticulous quality control.
A business model that works for Dallas. As mentioned above, many “local” chains have been successful in Dallas and Texas at large, by offering limited menu options. The limited menu options stress that limited product focus allows for increased quality. Take a look at some of In-N-Out Burger’s indirect competition: Cane’s “One Love”, offering a choice of chicken tenders, chicken tenders, or chicken tenders. What about Chipotle or Freebird’s (an Austin transplant that also garners a significant cult-like following) which offer customizable burritos. On the menu, you only see 5 offerings, just like In-N-Out. But, dig a little deeper, and you find seemingly endless ways to customize your order. Sandwich shops like Which Wich, Subway, and Jimmy John’s have also found success with a model of limited menu offerings that are ultimately customizable.
Winning the customer on culture. Further, the limited product focus allows the restaurants to sell you on “culture” vs. product. It’s easy for competitors to duplicate products, but extremely difficult for them to create the culture, buzz, and dedication to a brand. In-N-Out Burger fans talk about a devotion to the brand as a whole, not just the great burgers. We’ve seen success of culture over product in Texas again and again, which indicates that In-N-Out’s strategy of brand and culture should make it fare well in our great state. Dallas, in particular, is a great test market for the state, since our area hosts a variety of culture, business, art, technology, and several colleges. You’ve got the perfect mix of people who are open to brand devotion, and those who just want a great burger.
The “secret” menu. One key to all the product craze, culture and brand devotion, and endless options from only 3 or 4 menu offerings, is the “secret” menu at In-N-Out. Ever heard of Animal Style? What about Protein Style? You won’t find these on the menu, but you’ll hear someone order it and wonder, “Wait, what’s THAT?” It’s like a treasure hunt every time you head to the chain, trying to figure out what else you can order from the underground offerings. Check out the article in D Magazine for more options on customizing your burger.
So, while their burgers don’t necessarily make me go wild, their brand and strategy are a marketer’s dream! I have always found In-N-Out Burger to be an excellent source of marketing inspiration, and I can’t wait to dive into the social media and insane sales that are sure to follow the opening of their first DFW location. See… their marketing is already working, as I’ve just given them free publicity 🙂