In-N-Out: Sustainable Fast-Food?

In-N-Out Watercolor by jack Schmitt

Recently, I was writing about In-N-Out Burger for my supply chain class. As far as fast food goes, I’m pretty impressed with In-N-Out Burger. For those who may not know, In-N-Out is a west coast, privately owned fast food chain that is known for its fresh, high-quality burgers and fries, clean establishments and friendly customer service. Here are just a few quick facts that I found interesting:

  • They started about the same year & only 45 miles west of McDonald’s. Rather then focus their mission on volume (like McDonald’s), they focused on quality and customer service.
  • They serve all their food fresh. Their burgers and french fries are never frozen or microwaved. They are 100% beef and potatoes respectively. Their shakes are made with real ice cream.
  • Their whole supply chain is within a day’s drive from any of their stores.
  • Initially, they only grew fast as they could support. Which at that time meant having a trained manager, a ready market and the cash to pay for the new store in full. Wowsers! You don’t hear of financial planning like that anymore!

Still, even with their great business model, there are some gaps that stand out to me in terms of being a truly sustainable business.

  • Improving energy efficiency. By converting all the lighting in their stores to LEDs they could save money on their utility costs.
  • Supplier resiliency: What are the practices of their suppliers? What would happen if the US is hit by a potato blight? Mad cow disease? Grain shortages? To build resiliency into their supply chain, In-N-Out Burger needs to assess the resiliency and sustainability practices of its suppliers.

With In-N-Out’s cult like following, it would be interesting to see what kind of impact they could have if they started to take on sustainability initiatives.

Mickie, R.  (2009).  Should In-N-Out Burger Dump Its Trash Cans? | Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit.  (n.d.).   Retrieved December 6, 2010, from

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