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In-N-Out Burger: Professionalizing Fast Food

The regional chain In-N-Out Burger has held its own against giants Burger King and McDonald's by stressing employee retention

If you live in California or Arizona, you know In-N-Out Burger. Otherwise, the 232-restaurant chain may ring a bell only because of Paris Hilton. She was famously on her way to satisfy an In-N-Out urge when she was charged with DUI in 2006. Foodies may be aware that star chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller are big fans. But even devotees may not know that the company, founded in 1948, has resisted both franchising and going public, and beats Burger King (BKC) and rivals McDonald's (MCD) on per-store sales. BusinessWeek writer Stacy Perman brings the secretive company to light with In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules. This excerpt tracks how Rich Snyder, son of founders Esther and Harry Snyder, expanded the chain, focusing closely on the quality of the food—and the staff—before he was killed in a plane crash in 1993.

Rich Snyder was 24 when he became president of In-N-Out Burger after his father, Harry, died in 1976. He shared Harry's belief that running a successful fast-food business wasn't about cutting corners or using the right equipment. What it boiled down to was the people on the front lines.