Is In-N-Out Burger Moving East?

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Rumors are rampant that In-N-Out will open a restaurant in Texas. Fans hope the speculation could indicate the chain will accelerate its expansion.Rumors are running amuck that In-N-Out Burger, the fast-food chain with a cult-like following, is continuing its molasses-like expansion beyond California borders with plans for a restaurant in Texas. If true, the rumored restaurant outside of Dallas would expand the chain into its fifth state.

This would be mouthwatering news for fans of the double-double "animal style" burgers and fresh-cut fries. The rumor went viral on social-media sites, with the most popular type of post following the lines of: "Texas next, then [insert your state here]."

What launched all this fervent speculation? Well, the Garland City Council this week approved a zoning change to allow an unnamed burger chain to open along State Highway 78. "With little fanfare, the Council approved the request last night for a fast food outlet near Firewheel Town Center," blogged Garland City Councilman Douglas Athas. "Although there have been no formal announcements, In-N-Out Burger is expected to open its first of several Texas locations in north Garland. No schedule has been announced."

In-N-Out only fueled the speculation Tuesday with its statement that "Garland is, in fact, one of the locations that we are currently working on." Carl Van Fleet, the chain's vice president of planning, added that there are a couple of locations in the Dallas area that might be appropriate for the restaurant. "I'm sorry I can't be more specific at this time," he says. "We just want to be careful about being accurate and don't want to mislead anyone. "

The Slow Burger Expansion

Founders Harry and Esther Snyder opened the first In-N-Out restaurant in East Los Angeles in 1948, and up until 1992, In-N-Out was strictly a California phenomenon. Then the slow migration out of the Golden State began, starting with neighboring states. The locations have doubled in the last decade, with 197 locations in California, 26 in Arizona, 16 in Nevada and five in Utah. And the dozen or so In-N-Out fan clubs remain eager to out the chain's next locations, making the company constant fodder for the rumor mill.

In-N-Out is privately held by the Snyder family, which -- despite consistent rumors to the contrary -- has "no plans to take the company public or franchise any units," according to the company Web site. The clear statement hasn't kept Wall Street from speculating about an IPO or fans from calling the corporate offices in Irvine to ask about franchising opportunities.

With so many burger joints around, why has the chain developed such a following? For one thing, In-N-Out has successfully created a culture. Take the regulars' secret way of ordering, which is reminiscent of a speakeasy code.

Because the physical menu has remained the same since the chain's inception, with only burgers, fries and shakes overtly listed on the menu board, only insiders know to ask for a burger "animal style," for example, which includes pickles, extra spread, grilled onions and mustard fried onto each patty. Customers in the know can even order their fries "light," or cooked less to create a softer texture.

The Burgers of the Stars

The Hollywood factor also adds to the mystique of the burger restaurant. Topping the list of legendary In-N-Out oddities is Paris Hilton's explanation, when arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in 2005, that she had been starving and "just wanted an In-N-Out Burger."

And just last month, Kim Kardashian, who stumps for Carl's Jr. in commercials, got caught hitting an In-N-Out in Burger in Las Vegas -- although she said the food was for her bodyguard. In-N-Out fan clubs feature many photos of stars chowing down on the burgers.

It's not just the rich and famous, either. Jeff Rose, a financial planner in Carbondale, Ill., admits that when he visits his mom in Las Vegas, he always stops at an In-N-Out first. "You have to pass it when you drive to her house," he says, in his defense. "It's not like the time I paid an extra $40 in cab fare to visit an In-N-Out on the way to the San Diego airport." The news of the Texas location is encouraging, if true, because it would bring an opening in his hometown one step closer, he says.
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