Service With a Smile: My Experience Working for In-N-Out Burger
Behind-The-Scenes INO Fact:
Until her death in 2006, Esther Snyder's signature was on all the checks/payslips of In-N-Out associates.
A Little History About In-N-Out Burger
If you live in or have visited the West Coast of the United States, chances are you've heard of In-N-Out Burger. It's a burger chain that originated in Southern California, but has now spread to several states in the West Coast, including Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Oregon.
The first In-N-Out was built on October 22nd, 1948 in the Los Angeles suburb, Baldwin Park, by Harry Snyder and his wife, Esther. Harry's idea for the company was to focus on quality and freshness, and his motto for the company is still used today: "Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment."
Harry designed a simplistic menu which hasn't changed over the years: three choices of burgers (hamburger, cheese burger, or double-double), french fries, and drinks (sodas or milkshakes). Over the years, the restaurant became a California staple and eventually spread throughout southern to northern California, then to Nevada, and now has 304 stores, with new locations opening in Oregon.
In-N-Out is not a franchise like most other fast food restaurants (i.e. McDonalds or Burger King); all 304 stores are still owned today by the Snyder family (more specifically, Harry's granddaughter, Lynsi). As a result, the stores have a very family-oriented attitude towards both customers and their employees (or "associates"), and all the stores have been able to maintain Harry Snyder's original attitude towards maintaining quality, freshness, and high customer-service standards.
Behind The Scenes INO Fact:
As part of our orientation, we had to learn (and were quizzed on) the history of In-N-Out burger. We also had to memorize the mission statement and watched numerous training videos. In total, we had two full working days of training before even being let into the store!
My Experience With In-N-Out Burger
My family loved In-N-Out when I was growing up! INO was a big deal in California when I was a kid, because there weren't many locations back then (and they were only in California at that point), and everyone really only knew about it through word-of-mouth.
We didn't even have one where I lived in Sacramento for a long time, so on special occasions, my grandparents would take me for a 45 minute drive to Davis, California to get a burger. I always loved eating there- the food was always so good and fresh, and the people that worked there were always really nice. I remember thinking as a kid that I'd love to work there someday, because the employees always looked so happy.
When I was 16, my mom and I moved to Nevada. Not too long after we moved, we heard that an In-N-Out Burger (one of the first in Northern Nevada) was being built literally around the corner from us. I had worked the previous summer, but I knew that I wanted to get an after school job with my senior year coming up, so I applied.
Because the store was being built from the ground up, they held a huge interview day, where there were literally hundreds of applicants. Some of the regional and district managers came down to do group interviews. In the end, they chose 80 new associates to open the store (though we were also working with "all-stars"- experienced In-N-Out associates who were there to train us), and I was one of them! I remember being so excited!
A few days before we started work and before the store opened to the public, the managers opened the store for one night- just for all the new associates and their families to come and try In-N-Out burger for the first time and for all of the new staff to mingle. I remember my mom, my cousin and I being so excited for my new journey at In-N-Out.
Want to get a job at In-N-Out?
Make sure you're friendly, upbeat, positive, customer-service focused, and don't have any visible tattoos, piercings, or hair dyed with "unnatural" colours (the image standards are due to the stores still trying to maintain the Snyder's "family-friendly" ideals). Apply online or go in-store to speak to a manager. Don't forget to have a big smile! Previous experience isn't necessary, as you get trained very thoroughly, and everyone (even the managers) start at Level 1 and work their way up!
Have you ever eaten at In-N-Out burger?
Working For In-N-Out
All In-N-Out associates start at the bottom of the company. That literally means that every store, district, or regional manager was at one point, just a Level 1 associate- cleaning tables in the dining room and sweeping the floor. That definitely makes the dynamics within the company a bit better, I think; you're never being bossed around by someone who didn't know what it was like to be in your position and your boss really does know what each position is meant to do and has/can do it as well as you can.
As you work your way up within the company you "level up" or get promotions that allow you to do other things in the store. As mentioned above, Level 1 associates do dining room clean up; sweeping, mopping, cleaning tables, restocking the dining room, and of course, greeting customers with a friendly smile. Level 2 associates do order-taking at the front counter, or work the "pay window"- taking money in the drive-thru. Level 3 associates can work the fry table. Level 4 associates are meant to take orders in the drive-thru, and Level 5 associates work "board"- or the table next to the cook where burgers are prepared and then packaged. Level 6 is cook and Level 7 is the entry-level to management, where you start running shifts.
After that, associates can go to In-N-Out University and learn to become a manager. There are three management positions before store manager (4th person, 3rd person, and 2nd), and finally, you can be promoted to the store manager, where you run the store. Store managers do not own the specific In-N-Out they work for; as stated above, all stores are still owned and overall maintained by the Snyder family. Most In-N-Out store managers make upwards of $100K a year and some end up moving quite a lot as other store managers move on to other higher up positions in the company. But being a store manager at INO is not a bad job to have!
Behind The Scenes INO Fact:
Every year, In-N-Out gives a gift to all of its associates for Christmas. Some gifts I've been give over the years: fleece blanket, In-N-Out Monopoly game, a MP3 player, a duffel bag, a thermos, a cookie jar designed to look like an In-N-Out store.
In-N-Out is one of the few "fast food" chains that pay employees above minimum wage. I was making $10 an hour when I started off, and over $12 an hour when I left, which is really good (and sadly, almost $5 more than I was making when I worked for the school district as a teacher's assistant!).
In-N-Out gives their employees lots of perks. Associates are allowed one free meal during every shift they work (or two, if they're working 8 hours or more). There are no employee discounts if you're not on the clock and no one is allowed to give out free food to friends or family. But there are plenty of other perks from working with the company, like free trips (every summer there's a company picnic to a water park and it's completely free), Christmas presents, and plenty of parties.
If stores perform well, they're rewarded with trips to amusement parks, and store managers who hit all their targets are rewarded to lavish vacations. Last year, my friends and former managers were treated to a paid 12-day vacation to Munich; this year, they were treated to Scotland.
Because the company is owned by a Christian family, employees get holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter off with pay.
Freshness & Quality Standards
After working at In-N-Out, I can say without a doubt that its the cleaniest, freshest "fast food" you can ever have. The stores are kept immaculately clean. If anything ever falls on the ground, its immediately disposed of. Food is ALWAYS made to order; there are no "heat lamps" or microwaves designed to keep food warm until it's needed. French fries are the only thing that are allowed to sit for a 1-2 minutes, and even then, if they are lukewarm upon recieving a burger, they're either put back in the fryer for a "well done" fry order, given to an associate going on a break, or thrown into the trash.
Hardly any of the food is prepackaged or manufactured. Mostly everything is made fresh at the store. Potatoes are cleaned, peeled, sliced and then chopped into french fries. Lettuce, tomato and onions are prepared in the morning for fresh produce throughout the day. Things like meat and cheese are delivered regularly and then placed in a fridge until used. The few things that come in packages are the spread (which is not made in store, and no- I never learned the "secret recipe" behind it ;)), chili peppers, and beverages. Everything else you consume at In-N-Out was made for you right at the store!
The REAL "secret menu"
A meatless burger. Comes with cheese and whichever salad/condiments you'd like.
Two slices of meat and cheese together with no bun or salad.
You can add this to any burger; the patty will be grilled in mustard. This always comes with pickles, so make sure you specify if you don't want any.
Regular french fries, topped with two slices of melted cheese.
Similar to the grilled cheese, except without cheese. There's no "tofu" or similar meat-replacement patty, though.
You can have your fries cooked light (for about 2:30 mins) or well (for about 6 mins) as opposed to the typical 4:30 minute french fry.
Neapolitan is the most common, but you can do any combo of mixed flavours for shakes. Vanilla/chocolate, vanilla/strawberry, or strawberry/chocolate
Root Beer Float
Half vanilla/half root beer, of course!
My personal favourite, half of a vanilla shake and half pink lemonade. Very
Half ice tea, half pink leomonade
There's no name for this, but it's just half of a chocolate milk shake and half coffee. Associates probably won't make this for you, but you can do it yourself with a chocolate shake and coffee from the dining room.
Add these to any burger for a spicy edge.
You can order any burger or fries without salt- just tell the cashier before completing your order
You can ask for extra spread on any burger, or even just a side of spread for your burger or fries. Just never, EVER call it "special sauce" or "sauce"; it's an INO associate's pet peeve ;)
What's your favourite thing to order at In-N-Out?
Behind The Scenes INO Fact:
Eating at INO isn't just eating delicious burgers; you're also supporting a positive place that gives back to charities and takes good care of its workers!
A Life-Changing Job
I ended up working for In-N-Out for a total of six years. I worked there throughout the rest of my high school and college years. Even after I quit working for two years (when I left to work in an elementary school, while I was studying to be a teacher) I ended up going back to In-N-Out for another two years, until I moved out of the country. Unlike most fast-food chains, the turnover rate at In-N-Out is really low; most of us who were originally hired stayed on for several years after and many people who quit, ended up reapplying or coming back later (just like myself).
Of course, the pay and the perks were a big reason as to why I worked there so long, but I also really loved working at INO because of the positive atmosphere and camaraderie between my fellow associates.
Out of the eight people I consider my lifelong friends, five of them were fellow In-N-Out associates. I'm not really sure how it happens, but my best guess is that the company and managers just happen to hire really good people, and when you work there, you start hanging out with other associates and sometimes the people you meet end up being your best friends. A lot of associates date and get married (just a few weeks ago, two of my former managers had a wedding!), and almost everyone becomes friendly. I still talk to a lot of my former co-workers from In-N-Out, not even including the ones that are still my very best friends.
In-N-Out is such a great company, and I'm so thankful I got to work there. There were times I didn't enjoy it (mainly due to annoying customers, or managers I didn't like working for), but overall, it was a fantastic experience that changed my life. Working there taught me some invaluable customer service skills, which I've used in every job since, and best of all, In-N-Out taught me the value of having a great smile!
The next time you're near an In-N-Out, stop in and order a Double-Double Mustard Fried, Ketchup-Only (my personal favourite ;)), and think of me!
© 2015 Brittany Doherty