Cooking up employee loyalty the In-N-Out way!

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Cooking up employee loyalty the In-N-Out way



I just returned from a week-long road trip with my family. It was a real hoot. Peppered throughout our adventure, we listened to In-N-Out Burger, A behind-the-counter look at the fast food chain that breaks all the rules by Stacy Perman. We really enjoy audio books while on the road. This was a real treat!

I have a few friends who adore this burger chain. We were intrigued by its reputation. So, we didn’t hesitate to find a location as soon as we arrived in California.

We couldn’t believe it! Every location we attempted to go to was packed with lines wrapping around the building and completely full lobbies. We usually don’t like long lines, but I had to stick this one out to try out this experience.

It was very good. What I found more impressive, though, were the smiling faces, the open kitchen, the cleanliness of the stores, the presentation of the product and the flawless processes.

Harry and Esther Snyder opened their first location in 1948. They were minimalists who really just wanted to serve those inside and outside of their business, and to provide for their family. Here are some impressive facts from the book:

  • In contrast to their competitors, the average tenure of their full-time employees was 14 years.
  • Through all their success, they remained a private, family-owned business.
  • They have the same menu today that they had when they opened that long ago, excepting the addition of one beverage.
  • Every year, they pay for their top managers to go away on first class trips where they can learn from top speakers.
  • They invite all their managers to black tie events to socialize with other managers at some of the most prestigious blue-chip companies.
  • They call their team members “associates” and not “employees”, because they believe it put them at more of an equal footing with executives.
  • They refer to their “customers” as “guests”, because it sets the framework for a relationship of service.


There were two quotes that sat with me after reading this book:


“If you lose your associates, you lose your customers.” Rich Snyder


“Reduced turnover helps us maintain consistency in products.” Harry Snyder


These quotes get to the heart of the way the Snyder family treated its associates since opening its first store. They cared for and respected their people. They paid them far above the minimum wage, and often orchestrated their buying their own homes. They paid bonuses for performance before that was the popular thing to do. Their people were their family, and they deserved nothing less than the best. Harry and Esther demanded the best out of their people and they gave them the best in return. This was a story of employee engagement like no other. The family’s intense focus on doing what was best for their associates and their guests is what spawned tremendous employee and customer loyalty.

In the end, In-N-Out Burger needed very little in the way of formal public relations, because their associates and guests were raving fans; ones that would fly or drive to the ends of the earth to taste their goodness.

As an employee loyalty advocate, I was reinvigorated by what it means to put our people first. Once we do that, they take care of everything else.

I would highly recommend you read this amazing American story. Stay tuned next week for more road trip insights!

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