The Famous In-N-Out Burger: On the Outs? The future of the renowned In-N-Out Burger franchise is in doubt after its co-founder, Esther Snyder, died. The passing of Snyder, who founded the company in 1948 with her late husband, Harry, has led to new questions about how the company will balance its commitment to quality with a desire for national expansion.
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The Famous In-N-Out Burger: On the Outs?

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The Famous In-N-Out Burger: On the Outs?

The Famous In-N-Out Burger: On the Outs?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We turn now to two stories from the business pages, one about an American culinary classic leaving and, in a few minutes, another American classic coming back.

First, the famed In-N-Out Burger says goodbye to one of its founders. Co-founded in 1948 by Esther Snyder and her husband, the burger chain stuck to the basics: burgers, fries, and drinks. But those burgers enjoy a cult-like following in the three states where you can find them: California, Arizona, and Nevada.

On Friday, Esther Snyder died. Her death, 30 years after Henry's, raises questions about the future of the famed burgers. Will the company stay faithful to its loyal followers or will it expand nationwide?

For more now, we go to Nancy Luna, business writer for the Orange County Register. And she joins us from her office at the Register. Thanks for being with us.

Ms. NANCY LUNA (Business Writer, Orange County Register): Thanks, Lynn.

NEARY: So, you'll have to tell those of us who don't live in those three states why the In-N-Out Burger has such a cult following.

Ms. LUNA: Well, they have one of the freshest burgers around. And people come there because they want to eat their double-double or they want to eat their animal-style burger. And they consider it one of the best.

NEARY: Well, now what about the future of this business? Richard Boyd, the former executive of In-N-Out, has apparently filed a lawsuit against Esther Snyder's granddaughter because she wanted to expand the chain too quickly. Where does all this stand? And how does the death of Esther Snyder affect all this?

Ms. LUNA: Well, the suit that Richard Boyd - who is a long-time friend of the family - was settled in May, and we don't know the details of that suit.

He had accused, in that suit, Lynsi, of trying to oust her grandmother as her role as president. And she wanted to grow the chain national. Lynsi had denied all that in public.

But we will never know what really was the case when - now that Esther has died, we just won't know. The company is very private. They're very secretive about their plans.

They have said publicly that they only plan to grow about 10 or 12 units a year - and by industry standards, that's quite slow - and they don't plan to grow beyond the three states they're in.

NEARY: Well, what would be so bad about it becoming national if - nationwide - if it's such a good, such a good burger?

Ms. LUNA: The Snyders, and Esther, were apparently against national growth because they didn't think they could serve up the quality that they have become known for.

Mark Taylor, who now is the president of the company, has said that they have one distribution center. And they are limited in the amount that they can distribute their fresh meats.

The reason why the burger tastes so good is from hoof to mouth you get that burger in under five days, which is pretty amazing in terms of freshness.

NEARY: How did this - how did this business start out to begin with? What's the story of it?

Ms. LUNA: Harry and Esther met in 1947 in Seattle and moved down to Baldwin Park in 1948. And they decided to open their first restaurant together. They wanted to take advantage of the Southern California car culture and they finagled this two-way speaker box for customers to order from their cars, which then was basically pioneering the modern-day drive-thru.

And they were sticklers for freshest ingredients for all their burgers, served in a very clean environment. And they've never strayed from that formula.

NEARY: So wait. Are they the first ones to ever do - you're saying they're the first ones that ever had what is...

Ms. LUNA: They're credited. It's unclear - they're among the first. But locally they're definitely considered a pioneer of the concept.

NEARY: And so where do you think the business is going to go from here at this point? Or is it impossible to say at this point because of all the legal wrangling going on?

Ms. LUNA: Yeah, I don't care to speculate on where the business is going to go. But I'm sure if we see an In-N-Out pop up in the Big Apple, we'll know something's up.

NEARY: Well, maybe that's something for New Yorkers to look forward to.

Ms. LUNA: Right.

NEARY: Do you think that you can actually get that meat that fresh to New York as fast as you can to...

Ms. LUNA: I don't think so. They would probably have to open up a distribution center somewhere out in the East Coast and make that happen.

NEARY: All right. Well, thanks for joining us today, Nancy.

Ms. LUNA: Thank you.

NEARY: Nancy Luna is the business writer for the Orange County Register. She joins us from her office.

And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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