I was driving home from college group this last Wednesday night, and I decided to pull into the In-n-Out Burger in Pasadena on Walnut, just west of Sierra Madre. It was about 11:45pm, and as always, this tiny little drive-thru was crowded. As the guy took my order I asked him how he was doing and he responded with “I am doing good, thank you for asking.” Which may not seem like a big deal. But seriously, In-n-Out Burger is about the only fast food restaurant where the workers are friendly, courteous, personable, etc. No matter how long the lines are, and they are usually very long, they are friendly to everyone. Even the people who are rude.
So I decided to send an email to In-n-Out, letting them know how great their service and employers are, and specifically how great the three guys working during my Wednesday night drive-thru were. I sent that email out at about 1am on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and by 6:20pm on Thursday evening I received a call from someone in the customer service department of In-n-Out, thanking me for my comments, and wanting to know if they could be of any service to me. They also wanted to know if there was a specific time and place that I was thinking of so that they could let the people know. How amazing is that? I even told them in my email that they didn’t need to respond to me, but they did. What are the chances that any other fast food chain would have done that? Or any business for that fact?
I wonder how often we encourage people who do a job well. Most often we are super quick to let them know when they don’t do a good job, or if they don’t meet our demands. But I think as people, and as Christians, we should take the opportunity to encourage people when they do a good job. Even if it is something they should be doing, I think it’s worth pointing out, and letting them know how we appreciate them, or their work ethic and personality. Often, people are only known for what they are against, and only speak up when they criticize. What about being known for what we are for, and speak up when we want to encourage.
When I was in college I made my first trip to In-n-Out Burger on a road trip from Phoenix, AZ to Los Angeles with a bunch of guys, as we were headed to a big Promise Keepers rally in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1995 with about 75,000 other guys. On the way to Los Angeles we pulled over into the first In-n-Out Burger we saw. It was like pulling into the “promised land”, and into this place that I had only heard about, but had never experienced. On occassion when I was growing up I would see someone walking around with an In-n-Out t-shirt, but I didn’t know what it was, and I had never been there. It was this almost mythical place that I had heard many things about, but had never been. So on my first visit I remember ordering two Double-Double’s. They were amazing. That was all we thought about on that trip, and so we made sure that we stopped by on our way out as well, where I ordered two more Double-Double’s.
In-n-Out has the most simple, and best menu around, which is probably part of the reason for their success. Keep it simple, and make it good.
If you have never been to In-n-Out Burger, then you probably don’t know what I am talking about, nor care. And if you live in California, you probably take this fine institution for granted. It is now in Arizona and Nevada, but that is relatively new. I remember being in college and people taking road trips from Phoenix to an In-n-Out Burger in California, just to get some burgers and taste this “food from heaven” and the head back home. Yes, that is a 12 hour round trip, just to get a Double-Double. In fact, the first thing that my roommate and I did when we moved to Pasadena from Phoenix, was to visit the In-n-Out on Walnut to get some food late at night. I was so excited to have this place so close to where I lived. It was one of the huge perks of living in Pasadena.
Then there are the things that aren’t on the menu, but that you can itemize yourself. I only know about ordering my burger or fries “animal style” (special sauce with onions, etc.), or ordering my burger “protein style” (burger wrapped in lettuce, no bread), or ordering a “four by four” (four pieces of meat, four pieces of cheese). I think there are more options, but this is the most that I have learned of the hidden secrets of ordering food at In-n-Out.
If you are sitting here wondering why I would talk so much about fast food, well that’s because it is a big part of our lives, and because it has been very influential in shaping the American landscape and culture. For a very interesting read on this topic, read Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal.
You might be wondering why I am talking about this book, when I am talking so highly about fast food at In-n-Out. Well, that’s because this book time and time again states how In-n-Out is the exception to the rule. They are the best fast food company to work for, providing the best benefits and salary for their employees, as well as providing the best working conditions, and the most fresh food. And on that topic, you have to wonder if the family’s religious beliefs play a big part in this. I have heard that the Snyder family are Christians, though I don’t know that for sure. If you haven’t noticed before, there are verses on the cups and hamburger wrappers as well. This has caused some interesting conversation for many, and I found this interesting article on this topic over at Snopes, where people were wondering if this was urban legend or not.
Fast Food Nation is a compelling and intriguing read, as it is interesting to follow the development of the freeway/highway/interstate system in the United States, and how fast food restaurants boomed because of this, and helped give shape to the American culture. It’s even more interesting if you are on the West Coast, as you get an interesting history of the car, the sprawl of the West, fast food restaurants, highway systems and suburbia. Very intriguing.
So make sure that you let those who are doing a great job, know how appreciative you are of them.