What a Delicious Burger Can Teach You About Customer Service
Updated: Sep 6
This is a tale of a mini obsession.
If you are from certain areas of the country, you find people rabidly loyal to this family owned burger joint. Started in 1948 in California, the focus was on simplicity, quality and freshness. The company motto is "Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment."
For years, the only place you could get an In-N-Out Burger was in California so when I moved away from California, In-N-Out became a mecca. When I visited my family, the first stop was the In-N-Out right near the Los Angeles International Airport.
Then In-N-Out expanded into a variety of western states which meant that I didn’t have to wait for a trip home to savor this delicious burger, but could enjoy it in Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Utah, or Oregon.
Recently, after ordering a cheeseburger with animal-style fries (if you want to know what this is click here), the creamy deliciousness was not what struck me, but the cheerful demeanor of the employee. This was the same demeanor I experienced no matter what In-N-Out I frequented.
It made me wonder: What is their secret sauce when it comes to customer service?
After a deep dive into In-N-Out business practices, we found that In-N-Out can teach anyone how to build a culture that emphasizes customer service at all levels. This is how they do it:
Cultivate investment in the company: All In-N-Out associates start at the bottom of the company. That literally means that every store, district, or regional manager was at one point, just a Level 1 associate - cleaning tables in the dining room and sweeping the floor. The manager really knows what it feels like to do that job. Even the granddaughter of the founders, who now runs the company, started by working at a local store.
Support your staff in transition: Strong onboarding programs begin when an associate starts and continues through every transition an employee makes. Entry level associates attend training to learn about the culture of the company. As employees ascend each level of management they are provided with additional training at In-N-Out University so they feel equipped for the next level of their job. In-N-Out believes there are no shortcuts to growing great leaders through training.
Value your employees: In-N-Out consistently pays above minimum wage and pays their managers a salary they can raise a family on, averaging $160,000 a year. According to Indeed, they pay 28% higher than average for their industry. In addition to a liveable wage, they offer employees the kind of flexibility they need to do things like go to school and take care of their children. This flexibility distinguishes In-N-Out from other fast food brands and creates ongoing loyalty among employees resulting in low turnover and exceptional customer service.
Show your appreciation: In-N-Out gives their employees lots of perks. Associates are allowed one free meal during every shift they work (or two, if they're working 8 hours or more), free trips, and Christmas presents. Store managers who hit all of their targets are rewarded with lavish vacations. These fun ways of showing appreciation enhance the value they communicate to their employees through their company practices.
The granddaughter CEO, Lynsi Snyder, summarized the In-N-Out culture this way:
“To us this means creating a positive, fun atmosphere, allowing them to grow with us, paying them well for their hard work and remembering to thank them for what they do for our company every day.”
And who thought a burger could teach you this much?