The Ins and Outs of In-N-Out

Giant safety pins are used to secure associates' aprons.

From the ‘animal-style’ burger to the picturesque crossed palm
trees, In-N-Out has some peculiar
– yet charming – characteristics
If the mood strikes, South Valley residents can have a flying Dutchman underneath two crossed palm trees. Or, they can find Bible verses on their eight-by-eight wrapper while munching on their animal-style french fries.

Is it secret code for a dangerous and exciting mission? No. All this and more can happen at In-N-Out, one of the quirkiest fast food joints around.

Though In-N-Out has a lot of signature quirks, most people either don’t know the origin or don’t even know some of them exist.

The Not-So-Secret Menu

Hundreds of Web sites are dedicated to “unlocking the secrets” of In-N-Out’s menu. Sadly enough for these sites, the “secret menu” is posted on In-N-Out’s official Web site,, almost in its entirety. Basically, the extra items are all special orders labeled with a name.

“There’s really no secret menu,” said Dean Atkins, a regional manager for In-N-Out. “Our motto is to give the customer what they want. If they want extra tomato, more sauce, pickles, whatever – we’ll do it.”

The secret menu also includes the terminology that’s best to use when customizing an order. For example, if customers want two patties of meat and four pieces of cheese, they would order a “two by four.”

Guy Snyder – the son of one of Harry Snyder, one of In-N-Out’s founders – came up with the flying Dutchman, Atkins said, which is two meat patties, two slices of cheese and nothing else, not even a bun. But very few people order their burgers this way, Atkins said.

“That was just his favorite way to eat a burger – meat and cheese and nothing else,” he said.

The grilled cheese is one of the most popular secret menu items, and people who order the veggie burger should know there is no veggie patty on it, Atkins explained. A veggie burger is just the bun with spread, lettuce and tomato.

“If we put all this on the menu, it would look like all the other places where you have to squint to read it,” said Atkins, who has worked for the company for 28 years.

Customers often compliment the management, saying they appreciate a simple menu, added George Charlesworth, a division manager.

Julie Martinez, a Gilroy resident, said she had heard of the “animal-style” burger – a burger with mustard cooked into the meat, plus pickles, extra spread and grilled onions. But she said she’s more likely to stick with the regular menu.

“I always order a number two – a cheeseburger, fries and a Coke,” she said.

One real secret is the sauce In-N-Out puts on its burgers. The way it is prepared is kept closely guarded, but it’s not Thousand Island salad dressing. They promise.

Bible Verses

Frequent In-N-Out customers may have noticed Bible verses discretely placed on different food packaging.

“That goes back to Rich (one of Harry’s sons),” Atkins said. “He started doing it in the ’80s, and after he passed, we kept on doing it out of respect for him. It was just something he wanted to do.”

There are four different verses printed in different places.

– Soda cups: John 3:16, which reads “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

– Burger and cheeseburger wrappers: Revelation 3:20, which reads “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

– Milkshake cups: Proverbs 3:5, which reads “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”

– Double-Double wrapper: Nahum 1:7, which reads “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.”


Quality is the No. 1 focus of In-N-Out, and that starts with quality, fresh food, Charlesworth said.

Every day, fresh-baked buns, freshly made sauce, freshly prepared hamburger patties and other ingredients are delivered to every In-N-Out restaurant from their main commissary, located in Baldwin Park, Calif. The food is never frozen.

Potatoes are delivered to each restaurant in sacks. They are washed, peeled and diced in-store every day. Anyone who wants to watch the process can often see In-N-Out associates putting potatoes in a device and pulling a lever, which results in raw french fries spitting out of the bottom.

“We want our restaurants to be open. We want people to be able to watch their food being made,” Charlesworth said. “We don’t hide our kitchens behind a wall, and I think people appreciate that.”

Quality also extends to the people who work at In-N-Out, Atkins said. Both Charlesworth and Atkins started out working in an In-N-Out kitchen and moved up from there. Pay starts at $9.25 an hour.

In-N-Out employees often hang out together after work, Charlesworth said, often going to movies or even amusement parks together.

“People say their co-workers are like their family, but I think that’s really true here,” said Charlesworth, who has worked for the company for 18 years. “I met my wife at In-N-Out.”

Another part of providing a quality experience is having a clean and consistent environment, Atkins said. The company aims for restaurants to be known for their spotlessness, not only in the kitchen and in the dining area, but in the bathrooms, too. Evaluators have regular visits and surprise spot checks scheduled for all restaurants, checking each facility’s cleanliness.

“Customers often tell us they like to stop at In-N-Outs when they travel because they know they’ll get good food and a clean bathroom,” Charlesworth said.

Other Quirks

– Almost every In-N-Out has on the property two crossed palm trees, which form a giant X.

“Rich and Guy started that years and years ago,” Atkins said. “Harry’s favorite movie was ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.’ In the movie, a bunch of people are searching for treasure that’s supposed to be buried under crossed palm trees. So that’s where that came from.”

– Employees use giant safety pins to hold their aprons in place.

“The safety pin thing goes all the way back to Harry,” Atkins said. “It’s part of the image thing. The safety pin helps our associates stay looking tidy.”

– Restaurants are often decorated with In-N-Out posters featuring classic cars, and all In-N-Out T-shirts feature various classic cars, too.

“We just like classic cars,” Atkins said. “Rich and Guy both liked classic cars, so it really goes back to them. It was a fun hobby, and it spilled over to the restaurants.”

– In-N-Out is a West Coast company. The furthest north you’ll find an In-N-Out is in Redding, Calif., and the furthest east is in Arizona and Reno, Nev., though the company has recently purchased land in Utah. In-N-Out is also privately owned, and the company has no immediate plans to begin East Coast operations.

-You’ll never find a phone number to an In-N-Out restaurant. All locations have an unlisted number. In the phone book, In-N-Out’s 1-800 number is listed.

How it all began

Harry Snyder and his wife, Esther, founded In-N-Out in 1948. When Harry died in 1976, his son Rich took over. When Rich died in 1993, his brother Guy took over. Guy passed away in 1999. However, Esther Snyder is still the president of In-N-Out, and though she is in her mid-80s, she works from the corporate office every day.

The ‘Secret Menu’ Decoded

Just to make sure all of the South Valley is in the know, here is In-N-Out’s “secret menu”:

-“Double Meat” – A Double Double without cheese.

– “Animal-Style” – A burger with mustard cooked into the meat, plus pickles, extra spread and grilled onions.

– “Animal-Style Fries” – Fries with cheese, spread, grilled onions and pickles.

– “Three by Meat” or “Triple Meat” – Three meat patties and no cheese.

– “Four by Four” – Four meat patties and four pieces of cheese. In-N-Out will prepare up to an Eight by Eight.

– “Protein Style” – A burger with no bun, wrapped in leaves of lettuce, often preferred by low-carb dieters.

– “Flying Dutchman” – Two meat patties, two slices of cheese and nothing else. Not even a bun.

– “Fries, Well-Done” – Extra-crispy fries, left in the fryer a little longer than normal.

– “Fries, Light” – Fries on the softer side, taken out of the fryer a littler sooner than normal.

– “Grilled Cheese” – No meat, just cheese, tomato, lettuce and spread on a bun.

– “Veggie Burger” – Also called a “Wish Burger,” this is a burger with no meat and no cheese – just the sauce, lettuce and tomatoes.

– “Neapolitan Shake” – Strawberry, vanilla and chocolate milkshakes blended together in one.

Source: In-N-Out

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