The Secret Story Behind In-N-Out Burger

I just re-read a recent article in the L.A. Times that documented Lynsi Martinez’s ownership of In-N-Out Burger (the chain is well-known for being 100% privately-owned, with zero franchises). Although I do take particular interest in the restaurant’s back story — it’s a real-life soap opera in many ways — what proves equally interesting is the fact that people have shown so much concern over the fate of this burger chain. I suppose Lynsi, not Lindsey, Martinezit’s a testament to the hamburger itself, being that it’s such an iconic American food. And let’s face it: In-N-Out happens to be a cherished institution out here in California.

Consider the headline of the Times article itself, which uses the word “perfection” in the title. Even though writer Michael Hiltzik admits that a Double-Double doesn’t exactly meet some of the “health” requirements of many prescribed nutritional guidelines, the burger is still considered ideal in just about every other way. I think that the more you appreciate great food — and where it must begin — the more you might appreciate what In-N-Out Burger actually accomplishes.

In many regards, In-N-Out is indisputable. I remember reading an interesting article about Gordon Ramsay, who professed his own weakness for In-N-Out Burger, admitting that after eating one Double-Double in the dining room, he ordered another one from the drive-through on his way home. My very first instructor at chef school, the late Wayne Almquist, who had amazing tales of cooking for JFK at the Four Seasons in Manhattan, also raved about In-N-Out Burger.

The gist of the L.A. Times article is the same one that I remember hearing on NPR back in 2006, shortly after matriarch Esther Snyder had just died (her husband and co-founder, Harry Snyder, died in 1976). Because both of the Snyder sons had also died tragically, in 1993 and 1999, the privately-held chain ultimately fell into the hands of the Snyders’ only grandchild, Lynsi Martinez, in 2011.

Martinez (now Torres) was an unlikely heir, the only natural daughter of Guy Snyder, who died of a drug overdose in 1999, when she was 17. Previously, the Snyders had kept the business out of her father’s hands altogether, but their original heir, their younger and more stable son, Rich, died in a plane crash in 1993, at age 41. With no other alternative, Guy wold become a six-year president of In-N-Out, at least as a figure-head, until his own death.

With both sons deceased, Esther Snyder assumed presidency of In-N-Out, until she passed away in 2006. Because Lynsi Torres was only 23 at the time of her grandmother’s death, she would receive full ownership of the empire, in stages, over several years (half at 30, the other half at 35). Torres remains a bit of an enigma, but In-N-Out seems the same as it ever was.


9 comments to The Secret Story Behind In-N-Out Burger

  • Kenny

    As someone who doesn’t eat there because of the bible verses on all the wrappers and cups, I see new ownership as a chance for them to focus more on food and stop trying to preach to their customers. I’ll certainly start eating there if they do.

  • Jobu

    In N Out is breaking ground in Dallas this Sept on the first of 6 in the DFW area. The central distribution building they are setting up in Arlington looks bigger than the new Cowboys stadium (Jonestown). How things have changed.

  • godfather

    I find it hard to believe that the burger you so fondly write about could hold a candle to Port of call, Buds Broiler or a hamburger poboy from Parkway bakery.. Have you forgotten the burgers at the beachcombers on canal st??

  • Thirsty Reader

    I’ll cover each of those in March.

  • Jobu

    From the heart Godfather, I’ve spent many hours in each if those establishments, but they are all amazing and in n out does hold a huge flame next to them all.

  • Anonymous

    I boycott In n Out burger, cause they will not employee long hair individuals (except for women), which is a double standard. Also, boycott UPS, and Terminex… same reason.

  • Kevin

    There is a possibility that In-N-Out is building in the N.E. I cannot confirm this because In-N-Out has not published any information proving this. All I can say is, when I see a white building with Red Tiles and, near perfectly resembles an In-N-Out location. It could only be an In-N-Out.

    My ex-wife has told me that she had been writing In-N-Out corporate, every month for the last 5 years. One Ohio state football player had raved about In-N-Out, that info was posted on another website. N. Canton, Ohio is surely a perfect place to start in the N.E. section of the U.S. Because of the Mid to Higher class community or, the Professional Football Hall of Fame, the location for an In-N-Out in this specific area that I have spotted would be perfect for them to test to see if it will boom business for them. That and for those who have moved from California to Ohio and other regions like Pennsylvania and Indiana would go nuts with excitement if they found out In-N-Out would be coming to the North East. Let’s hopes so!

  • Thirsty Reader

    Since I’ve written this post In-N-Out has moved into Texas. However, I understand that the company has set up a distribution center, much like the one that serves all the West Coast locations. Perhaps the model is scalable. Ironically, I’m posting from In-N-Out in Napa right now. One o’clock in the morning of Easter-Passover and the place is packed like it’s noon…

  • Anonymous

    In and out is racial and does not hire african american people go to every in and out and tell me how many african american employees u see

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