In-N-Out Burger It’s hard to believe there are five problems with In-N-Out Burger because of how successful the company is and how delicious the burgers are. Well at least that what I heard, one of my friends that moved to California confessed to me that the reason he moved was because he loved In-N-Out Burger’s. But as I began to read I found more than five devastating problems that the Snyder family encountered as pioneers of the fast food business. The first major roadblock that Harry and Esther Snyder encountered struck home especially hard in the form of cancer.
After smoking a pack a day for thirty years Harry was diagnosed with lung cancer. The second problem they faced while Rich was president of In-N-Out Burger was when their company headquarters burnt to the ground. That was just the begging of the Snyder family’s bad fortune Harry and Esther’s youngest son Rich was tragically killed in a plane crash. Rich was not alone on the plan Phil West and Jack Simms, associates at In-N-Out Burger also died that day. Another problem that they faced was all the imitators who were infringing on their patented In-N-Out Burger fast food restaurants.
The fifth and what I believe to be the biggest problem In-N-Out Burger along with the Snyder’s faced was the lawsuit that Boyd brought against the company for alienating him from the company. Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009) 33 I can’t jump into talking about the problems that the Snyder family faced without giving a little bit of background on In-N-Out Burger. In 1948 the United States was still more like an old western frontier than the booming economy we have today. (33) Baldwin Park is where I-N-Out Burger began.
This is the place In-N-Out founders Harry and Esther Snyder bought some land, a small modest house, and built and even smaller burger-stand. This is where the Snyder’s developed their basic philosophy: serve the freshest, highest-quality burger and fries; treat your employees well and your customers even better, all while providing friendly service in a spanking clean environment; and above all remain family owned and independent. (12) Early on Harry took on a partner Charles Noddin, who agreed to finance the adventure, Noddin put up $5,000 to get things going. What Noddin or Snyder id not know was that in 50 years that little hamburger stand would flourish into a multi-million dollar business. (33) Harry wanted to open a restaurant that catered to people and the automobiles. He was a pioneer in the drive through window and in the two way speaker box. Harry actually designed the first ever two way drive through speaker box so that people could order their food from their car, drive up to the window, and pay for it while never leaving the comfort of their vehicle. (34) The point was to get people “in and out” hence the name In-N-Out Burger.
The small burger stand became an instant hit with in the community selling great tasting burgers with friendly and fast service. Soon Esther Snyder would give birth to two boy’s older brother Guy and little Rich. The boys grew up working at the hamburger stand doing tasks ranging from taking out the trash and raking up the gravel drive way to cutting French fries and flipping hamburgers. (42) Soon there were more people wanting In-N-Out burgers than the small hamburger stand could accommodate and they need to expand to a new store. Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009) 33,34,42,108
In 1974 the Snyder’s came face to face with a major problem. Harry was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had begun smoking cigarettes as a high school student in the 1930s when a pack of Chesterfields accompanied his regular game of rummy, but he had decided to quit in 1959. (108) But after smoking for thirty years the cigarettes had taken their toll. Harry was a fighter though and wanted to try everything he could to beat cancer. He submitted to endless rounds of medical appointments, test, and treatment. Eventually chemotherapy; when his hair began falling out, leaving him bald, he took to wearing a wig.
At one point, he went down to Mexico to submit to laetrile. An unconventional therapy not approved by the Federal Drug Administration. But all the medical treatments in the world could not prolong Harry life for very much longer. It was Harry and Esther’s intention to keep In-N-Out Burger a private, family-run business for succeeding generations of Snyder’s. The challenge for Harry was to pass was to pass on the company he built to someone who would be able to maintain its success without abandoning the unique culture that had made it a winning hand in the first place and to keep it in the family for successive enerations. (110) Usually that someone is your first born child. Guy felt strongly about the family business. But he had demonstrated that he would much rather be drag racing his hotrods, chasing girls, or getting high on drugs then take over the reins as owner of In-N-Out Burger, which had by this time grown into a very successful business with 18 locations along southern California. (109) Rich on the other had was an excellent worker, who was clean cut, never bucked the system, had strong Christian beliefs and never butted heads with his dad like Guy.
It was a pretty clear cut decision that Rich was to take over for Harry when he passed but Rich was not as confident in himself running the family business as Harry. Rich was very shy and on top of that he lacked a college education. (108) On a few occasions Rich brought up the idea of selling the company before Harry died. But Harry dismissed his sons self consciousness; he put his arm around his son and tell him, “You can do it Rich”. (113) After Harry’s death Rich was named president of In-N-Out Burger, Esther was given the title of secretary-treasurer, and Guy was named executive-vice president.
Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009) 108,109,110,113,119 At about 7:00 p. m. on August 16, 1978, a fire broke out at the chain’s Baldwin Park headquarters. (119) Sixty firefighters from eleven engine companies rushed to battle the flames as they ripped through In-N-Out’s warehouse, offices, and meat department. When the smoke had cleared the facility was completely gutted. (119) Fortunately, the facility was closed at the time and nobody was inside. The fire was potentially devastating for In-N-Out Burger, and not just in monetary terms.
The fire didn’t just pose a threat to Rich’s immediate plans to expand; it jeopardized In-N-Out’s ability to continue to operate. But Rich was determined to get In-N-Out Burger up and running immediately. (120) One thing that could have prevented the entire facility from burning to the ground was water sprinklers. But the building was built before regulation mandated that they be installed. I solely blame Rich for not foreseeing this as a potential future hazard and having the proper fire prevention measures installed. 120) It was a good thing that In-N-Out Burger had always taken care of its suppliers because following the warehouse fire, this time the suppliers took care of the burger chain. After the fire, when in-N-Out was unable to deliver supplies to the chain, a group of In-N-Out’s long time suppliers delivered their goods to individual stores until the warehouse was rebuilt. Esther took charge of the chain’s administrative duties, converting a portion of the first floor of her San Dimas house into In-n-Out’s temporary offices.
Esther brought a handful of “the girls,” as she called them, form accounting to work with her in her home. (124) Rich found a rental facility nearby that he turned into the chain’s provisional warehouse and distribution center. And he worked out of the small warehouse building on the edge of store Number One that still housed Snyder Distributing. (124) They continued to run the company in this make-shift way for the next two years. To Rich’s credit, each one of the chain’s eighteen stores remained open and running with hardly a hiccup. Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009) 119,120,124,210
December 15, 1993 was a particularly busy day for Rich Snyder. Rich was going to attend the grand opening of In-N-Out Burger’s new Fresno store; the chain’s ninety-third. (190) He and a group of In-N-Out executives including his mother boarded a private jet to make the trip to Fresno. The grand opening of the store went off perfectly. Rich, his mother, and the group of executives boarded another plane and headed back home. (196) Esther Snyder wasn’t feeling well and asked to deplane as soon as possible. The jet flew to Brackett Field where she got off as did one other man.
The sickness she was feeling actually saved her life for little did she know that, that was the last time she was every going to see her son alive. Upon approach to land the small plane that Rich and the exec’s were in flew through the jet wash of a much larger 757. Like the scene from the movie Top Gun, there plane went into a nose dive. The plane crashed abruptly to the ground killing all the passengers. (201) Thousands of Rich’s family and friends mourned the loss. But In-N-Out Burger had to carry on much in the same fashion as when Harry passed away.
The only two family members who could take over the company were the elderly miss Snyder and the vagrant oldest son Guy. Guy and Rich never got along and Rich was actually trying to face Guy out of the company completely when he died. (202) But through a loophole in the legal documents In-N-Out Burger had a new president Guy Snyder. Guy’s drug and alcohol problems were very obvious to the Snyder family and the In-N-Out Burger executives. When Guy first became president he did an excellent job but it wasn’t soon after that his drug problem really took a turn for the worse. But this time it not only affected him but the entire In-N-Out family.
In August 1995, Guy and his wife Lynda Snyder legally separated. Their estrangement lasted two years. (210) Barely four months after the couple’s formal separation, police officers in Claremeont, thirty miles east of Los Angeles, police officers found Guy Snyder’s parked 1968 Dodge Charger. I was around 3:30 a. m. on Christmas Day. When the officers peered into the car, they found Guy hunched over and passed out; his face was buried in a briefcase containing a small pharmacy of drugs, including marijuana, Valium, codeine, Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009) 196,201,202 pistols, and 24,000 cash.
He was arrested and charged with seven misdemeanors including public intoxication, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, carrying a loaded firearm, and possession of a switchblade. Over the next decade Guy would slip in and out of rehab and eventually die from an overdose of painkillers. (228) If I had a choice between letting an elderly woman with all her wits run a multi-million dollar company or a drug addict. I would have chose Esther all the way, she would have made a much better president than Guy and furthermore once he became president his salary got bumped up from 100,000 dollars a year to 2 million. 217) Any addict with this much money and resources would have done the exact same thing, live hard and wild…for awhile. Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009) 228,217,251,252,253 One of the craftiest people who tried to make a buck off the In-N-Out Burger name was in 1999 when a sixty-two-year-old Texas businessman named James Van Blaricum hatched a secret plan to own a piece of In-N-Out Burger in the Fort Worth area (reportedly after the chain refused to entertain his earlier offers to either invest in or franchise the business). 251) He hired ex In-N-Out employees to steal everything they could from the store and take pictures of anything that was bolted down. He went as far as to freeze a piece of the meat and analyze it to get his burger recipe exactly like theirs. (252) After opening the first of his planned one thousand Lightning burgers stores at the Six Flags mall in Arlington, Texas, In October 2001, In-N-Out Burger slapped him with a pair of lawsuits in Dallas and Los Angeles federal courts alleging trademark violation. (253) Van Blaricum wasn’t the only one trying to ride the coat tails of In-N-Out all the way to the bank.
In May 2007, a new burger drive-through called Chadder’s opened up in American For, Utah. In-N-Out began receiving inquired from customers asking whether the burger place was In-N-Out’s new Utah chain. Chadder’s building exterior, color scheme, signage, menu, and employee outfits were all deceptively similar to In-N-Out. Once the lawsuit had been filed Chadder’s which had denied the allegations, began changing its look. Employees’ aprons and hats went from red to blue, the background color of its menu board went from white to yellow, and the font on its menu board was changed.
An In-N-Out spokes person told the Los Angeles Times, “We don’t want to be known as a bully, especially in the legal field. We’re just trying to protect the rights to our name. ” However he added, “They think they can ride on the coattails of an existing company. Why should somebody be able to use the name at our expense? ” ( 254) After the passing of Guy Snyder his only descendent Lynsi, just a teenager, became president of In-N-Out Burger. This was a position that she was thrust into and she was not ready for.
She grew up with a very strong Christian faith and she basically wanted the entire In-N-Out Burger to believe as she did. (257) One upper level executive who chose not to do Lynsi’s bidding was Rich Boyd. Lynsi’s began to slowly try and force him to quite his position but Boyd was having none of it. He sued In-N-Out Burger for wrongful termination and In-N-Out counter sued. (257) A long drawn out legal battle ensued nothing or no one was safe. The only chance Rich Boyd had was Esther Snyder. He knew the real Lynsi and how she refused to go to college or even work at an In-N-Out Burger like the whole family had did before her.
She wanted everything and didn’t want to do anything for it. But the only person who could fire Boyd was Esther Snyder. (259) Now in her 90 and confined to her house. Lynsi had In-N-Out employees take papers to Esther Snyder’s house to sign having Boyd fired but they told her they were for something else. Lynsi and her husband Taylor had Esther phone number changed so Boyd couldn’t call her and get the truth. When all of these circumstance came out in court In-N-Out dropped their countersuit and settled with Boyd, out of court.
Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009)254,257,259 In-N-Out has gone through some good times and some tough times but through it all one thing has remained the same, the food. In-N-Out still has a massive cult following because they know how to treat their employees and customers. In-N-Out founder Harry Snyder believed in three things cleanliness, quality, and service and just as long as In-N-Out Burger sticks to following what Harry and Esther started to doing right in back in there small little burger shack in 1948. 33) Then hopefully by the time I have kids or grandkids we won’t have to travel to California to get a double-double they’ll have already taken the U. S. by storm. But on their own terms, slow and steady with great management. Personally I can’t wait till spring break I’m going to visit one of my best friends who lives on Pismo Beach in California. The first thing I want to do when I get off the plane in LAX is go to In-N-Out and order something off the “secret menu”. Perman,Stacy, In-N-Out Burger: (NY, New York,2009) 33