Lessons from In-n-Out Burger

Lessons from In-n-Out BurgerI recently enjoyed the book In-N-Out Burger: A Behind the Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain that Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman. It’s a great read about one of America’s most revered hamburger chains. I have certainly been impressed with the company’s longevity, business model and commitment to excellence. Here are 3 takeaways I gleaned from In-N-Out:

Great companies keep it simple. The In-N-Out menu is very basic: burgers, fries, soft drinks and shakes. That’s it. The company’s menu has deviated very little since its inception in the 1940s. The only exception is In-N-Out’s not-so-secret “secret menu.” It’s basically a slight variation of its regular menu w/ the addition of a grilled cheese sandwich. The principle is that it’s much easier to do a few things extremely well as opposed to doing a multitude of things very well. Simplicity keeps the main thing the main thing and it makes it easier for an organization to accomplish its goals and grow.

Care for your team. The Snyders hated the term “workers” and always treated their “associates” with the utmost respect. Entry-level In-N-Out associates have always been paid well above the minimum wage and can take advantage of excellent development and career opportunities. During Rich Snyder’s tenure at the helm, associates could reach store manager (and a six figure income) from an entry level manager position in just five years. It was considered a significant accomplishment and always earned through proven hard work and accomplishment. The Snyders threw annual parties for associates and treated them like family. One of the best ways to provide excellent care for customers is to make sure you first provide excellent care for your people.

It’s about the customer. In-N-Out created a cult of “raving fans”, and they accomplished this by taking exceptional care of customers. The most powerful form of marketing and promotion is word of mouth. One of the central tenets taught at In-N-Out University is called rule number one: “The customer is always right.” Rule number two was “If by chance the customer makes a mistake, refer to rule number one.” At In-N-Out, associates will go to great lengths to satisfy customers. The emphasis is on service, cleanliness and quality. When you relentlessly focus on providing these three ingredients, you’re truly placing the customer first.

How does your business perform in these areas? Do you need to simplify your services and offerings? Can you take better care of your people and provide more opportunities for them to develop and advance within your organization? Are you creating “ravings fans” who will sing your praises from the rooftops? Hopefully, In-N-Out’s business model has given you some food for thought.

Now, who’s ready for a “Double-double”?


6 Responses to “ Lessons from In-n-Out Burger ”

  1. July 23, 2013

    Good blog, Justin. A firm reminder that the basics count, and are foundational to success.

  2. July 23, 2013

    Just got back from Southern California where the first thing we did after getting off the airplane was head to In-N-Out for a double-double. STEW

  3. July 24, 2013

    Great article Justin. Success comes from consistently executing the “basics” – and it doesn’t matter what product or service you sell.

  4. July 24, 2013

    Thanks for the kind words, Kayla. I completely agree. Stew, thanks for rubbing it in!

  5. July 25, 2013

    This is good. It makes a good point. We know our products but others do not. The more simple our message, the more easy someone can understand and it will make their buying decision easier.
    Not to mention, the service provider can be better at what they do.

  6. July 25, 2013

    I appreciate your detailed and thorough book review Justin! I’m ready to read this…can I borrow your copy?

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