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In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness; 1 edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061346713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061346712
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #302,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: With In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules, BusinessWeek writer Stacy Perman presents a chronicle of how a family-run California hamburger joint went on to become an American pop culture icon. Founded in 1948 by Harry Snyder and his wife Esther in Baldwin Park, CA, In-N-Out Burger attracted a cult-like fanbase of cruising teens, surfers, and celebrities alike (who developed a secret shorthand for custom orders). As they expanded slowly over the years across California and into Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, they never sacrificed their core customer-service values and commitment to quality. Their made-to-order success story packs enough family drama to fuel an HBO miniseries. After Harry died in 1976, his son Rich took over the business (and was responsible for adding discreet Bible verses to In-N-Out cups and wrappers) until his death in a 1993 plane crash. His brother Guy, a drag-racing rebel with a dark side, stepped in to helm the business until his accidental overdose in 1999. If you've never had an In-N-Out burger, Perman's book just might inspire you to find a good reason to get yourself to Southern California and seek out an off-the-menu 3x3 with a side of Animal Style fries. --Brad Thomas Parsons

Author Stacy Perman's Guide to In-N-Out Burger's "Secret Menu"
Except for the addition of 7-Up and Dr. Pepper, In-N-Out Burger's menu has remained much as it was when the chain opened its first drive-thru in Baldwin Park, California in 1948. However, at some point in time, a "secret menu" emerged. Something of an insider's code, it is an off-menu series of variations on the chain's standard fare (Double-Double, hamburger, cheeseburger, and french fries) that has been passed on entirely by word-of-mouth through the years.

Although the "secret menu's" origins remain a mystery, part of its existence can be explained by the fact that In-N-Out Burger has always insisted on cooking-to-order each individual burger any way a customer wanted it prepared. Over time, several of these variations gained traction and somewhere along the way a number of them were given their own names. While frequently steeped in rumor and apocryphal tales the "secret menu" is almost always used by those In-N-Out customers in the know.

These are the most popular "secret menu" items. In-N-Out Burger has listed them on their website (and even trademarked their names):
Double Meat: Two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, spread, (optional onions) on a toasted bun.
3x3: Three beef patties, lettuce, tomato, sauce, three slices of American cheese, (optional onions) on a toasted bun.
4x4: Four beef patties, lettuce, tomato, sauce, four slices of American cheese, (optional onions) on a toasted bun.
Grilled Cheese: Two slices of melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, sauce, (optional onions) on a toasted bun.
Protein Style: Any burger served sans bun and wrapped in lettuce.
Animal Style: Any burger with mustard cooked beef, lettuce, tomato, extra sauce, pickle, and grilled onions on a toasted bun. (Note: the Grilled Cheese can also be prepared Animal Style)

A few more "secret" variations that have made the rounds for those in the know:
X x Y: Any number of beef patties with corresponding slices of American cheese (note on one memorable Halloween evening in Las Vegas a group of friends famously ordered and consumed a 100x100).
Flying Dutchman: beef patty or patties and American cheese slice(s) no vegetables or bun.
Veggie Burger (sometimes called a Wish Burger): no beef or cheese, just lettuce, tomato, or (optional) onions on a toasted bun.
Extra Everything: just like it sounds--extra sauce, tomato, lettuce, and onions served grilled or raw.
Chopped Chilies: mild chopped peppers are added to any burger.

The "secret menu" also extends to a variety of french fry variations:
Animal Style Fries: an order of fries slathered in melted American cheese, sauce, and grilled onions.
Fries Light: reduced cooking time resulting in softer, chewier french fries.
Fries Well-Done: increased cooking time resulting in crispier, browner french fries.
Cheese Fries: french fries bathed in melted American cheese.
Onion Variations:
The usual scenario is a whole slice of fresh onion cooked with the burger but In-N-Out will serve onions grilled, raw, and chopped if asked.

For those really in the know:
If you ask an associate at the counter they will give you a serving of yellow chili peppers.
Pickles are added only upon request.

From Publishers Weekly

Perman (Spies Inc.) casts an affectionate and admiring eye at In-N-Out Burger, the family-owned, Southern California chain that has become a cultural institution without franchising, going public, changing its menu or precooking its burgers. This book traces the history of the company and the Snyders, the family that founded and still owns In-N-Out, interspersed with the evolution of the fast-food industry. Perman never makes good on her promise to go behind-the-counter and analyze the company's dealings—her access to executives and family members did not extend to gleaning financial or strategic information—consequently it's never clear whether In-N-Out's conservatism is a conscious business strategy, a personal preference of the owners or plain complacency. More a glowing fan letter from an appreciative customer than exposé, this book has more to say about the company's celebrity fans, American family dynamics and our collective love affair with fast food. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

For those of you who love this chain, I highly recommend reading it.
If there was one on every block, even if it was able to maintain its quality, I just don't see it maintaining such a rabid following.
It has great insight into the Snyder family and the beginnings of In-N-Out.
S. Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Evans on May 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Lots of people love In-N-Out hamburgers, and Stacy Perman would tell its history. Although well written with a fine job of documenting the company after Harry Snyder's sons, Rich and Guy, took over, it omits the story of the risk and drama of its origination and contains errors and omissions.

For example, Perman only alludes to Charles Noddin but, without him, there would be no In-N-Out. She says, "it was just Esther and Harry. The Snyders did everything themselves." Not true. Charlie and Edith Noddin devoted as much time and effort as Esther and Harry. Although Harry, being younger, did more labor. As to the secret sauce, after some minor adjustments, Harry never "spent years perfecting" it.

But the greatest omission is the lack of explaining why the first In-N-Out was built in a place as isolated as Baldwin Park. It was a desperate place to start a business. And the story is untold.

She states that, "in all probability it was the country's first (drive through)". That's not so either. Enterprises evolve and the lunch wagons of the 1890s passed food to carriages driving in the street and to customers on the sidewalk. Surprisingly, about 1898, there was a drive up for carriages.

Harry Snyder did invent the two-way speaker. The reason he installed it was because when two or three cars were lined up, ordering by hand signals and shouting just didn't work; it was not so "motorists could order at one end" and "pick up their food at the other end." Also, the speakers were installed later, about two years when the need arose.

Perman states that Snyder was a savvy businessman who established Snyder Distributing. He actually divided the business into several independent units but it wasn't his idea; it was suggested by a CPA.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Rick Shaq Goldstein on April 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the life story of Harry and Esther Snyder and their family... and their one of a kind AMERICAN-SUCCESS-STORY IN-N-OUT-BURGER. The reader is taken from the Snyder's humble family beginnings... their falling in love... both their military service... the birth of their children... and their personal doggedness that led from one small fast food burger shop... to the current "cult-classic" chain that numbers over two-hundred locations. And it all started with Harry's mantra... do just one thing and be the best at it... and his entire system was based on three simple words: "QUALITY, CLEANLINESS, AND SERVICE". The author's exhaustive research pays off in spades as this is not only a tale of the amazing growth and success of "IN-N-OUT-BURGER"... but an insider's look... right from the middle of the action in the unparalleled escalation of the fast food culture in the United States from 1948 to the present. The Snyder's were not only right there with the birth of McDonald's, Burger King, Carl's Jr., etc. but In-N-Out beat them at their own game in the local market place that In-N-Out competed with them in. In fact even though they competed in the same area as Carl Karcher the owner of Carl's Jr. ... they were lifelong friends to the day they died.

As the rest of the industry spent every waking moment and dollar on lowering costs... whether through automation... or figuring out how many different ways they can freeze meat and potatoes... Harry refused to worry about lowering costs... he worried about "everything"... and I mean "everything"... being fresh. Only fresh meat... only fresh potatoes that they peeled and cooked themselves... every single day. They made their own buns... and made their own "secret sauce"...
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. Lloyd on October 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A few years ago I read "Behind the Golden Arches" which was the story of McDonalds. That book spent a lot of time talking about developing the great systems that McDonalds put in place in order to expand world wide. Until I went to In & Out I thought McDonalds had the best fast food system. However In and Out puts McDonalds (and all the others) to shame. The simplicity of the menu, being able to observe the preparation, not allowing long lines before taking the order, having a spare trash container next to the existing ones, the layout of the restaurants (I could be blindfolded in a new In & Out and find my way around), paying employees a bit more to get the good people. I'm dissapointed because this book doesn't address any of these in any detail. Who developed these systems? How long did it take? How have they changed over the years? In & Out is my favorite place to eat, but this book is not worth reading unless you like family gossip.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By S. Johnson on April 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has great insight into the Snyder family and the beginnings of In-N-Out. It also includes some simple but outstanding business principles that can be learned from the way Harry and Rich did business. The story has plenty of drama, too. Whether or not you are a fan of their hamburgers, I recommend this book has a great read on family-owned businesses and the story of an entire era of americana.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By M. Becker on February 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As an avid reader of books on business strategy, business organization, leadership, finance, etc, I was more than a little disappointed. This book lacks the substance needed to put it into the informal "business book" category. It is a good story, and entertaining to read, but you will not learn from it, feel inspired by it, or gain any more information about how the company is run than you had before you began reading the book. There are pages and pages of flowery descriptions where the book sounds more like an advertisement for the food they serve than anything else. There is more than enough information on the details of the people's personal lives involved in the company, but very little about the operations of the company. I do love to eat at In-N- Out, and it was interesting to read about the people who started the company and learn some of their history. The business information in the book, however, could have been summed up in a short magazine article.
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