End of An Era: Will In-N-Out Expand More Rapidly Now?

Esther Snyder (1920-2006) was the co-founder of In-N-Out burger, the enigmatic hamburger chain that drives even sensible people to pack cold Double-Double’s on a plane to share with their Southwestern Expatriate friends and relatives.  (The farthest I’ve heard of in my experience is LA to Birmingham)

The company began humbly in 1948 in Baldwin Park, California.  The chain has kept its menu small and its growth limited, for all of these years.  Estimated revenues of this closely held private company for 2005 are $350 million.  In-N-Out only has 202 restaurants in CA, NV, and AZ.  More aggressive leadership could certainly have exposed this company nationally reaping billions in revenue. 

Will new leadership blow up this brand into the global powerhouse that it could be…or will the company continue to grow organically with zero debt, highly paid employees, and spotless restaurants?  I believe that with the right leadership in place, companies can build out rapidly with great success while maintaining values and brand (and company ownership, ie no franchising)

I’m thinking that human nature will ultimately get the board to vote to take the company public, sell it to another larger brand, and cash out the top brass who’ve "endured" nearly 60 years of being "held back" by the old guard.  This company has avoided growth for simplicity and debt avoidance.  Are we copying this mode today with organically grown web 2.0 companies?  Remember that Seth Godin has written a whole book called,  "Small Is The New Big".  I tend to agree.

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