When I learned an In-N-Out Burger was coming to Austin, I should have been floored with excitement. Instead, my first feeling was disappointment.
I will never want an In-N-Out in Austin.
That may seem very strange, considering I am a born-and-bred Southern California girl who was raised on In-N-Out burgers. Every time I go back home, the first thing I do after getting my luggage is speed to the closest In-N-Out Burger to cure my withdrawals.
But In-N-Out is 100 percent associated with California. The expansion of the burger joint across the country diminishes the exclusivity that makes it special.
“Moving In-N-Out to Texas is like making five Hollywood signs and placing them on random hills in the Midwest,” said Paul Dragna, corporate communications sophomore from Los Angeles. “It is a California thing.”
People used to make pilgrimages to In-N-Out. The white tiles and paper hats were as much of a tourist destination as Rodeo Drive. The attention to detail that makes In-N-Out a fast food icon will be underappreciated east of California.
Until very recently, In-N-Out had one privately-owned processing plant in Irvine, Calif., and two bakeries in Los Angeles that crafted the famous In-N-Out sponge-dough buns. The chain limited locations to a 500-mile radius of this one plant to maintain freshness. While other fast-food chains have turned to frozen patties, preservative-packed buns and heat lamps over the years, In-N-Out does it the same way it has since 1963. The entire journey of an In-N-Out burger, from hooves to the hands of the customer, takes less than five days. This is In-N-Out’s real secret ingredient.
When the first of several Texas locations opened in Frisco, the chain could not use the same beef, bun bakeries or iconic processing plant to supply the new Texas stores.
“I went to the In-N-Out in Dallas and wasn’t very impressed,” advertising junior Ashley Lee said. “I’ve been to an In-N-Out in California, and I remember it being so much better.”
There is something backward about having a California classic in Texas. Maybe that processing plant has some magic that no other state can duplicate.
The integrity of the In-N-Out burger is being sacrificed as it spreads into Texas and beyond. If anyone outside of California is going to try my In-N-Out burger, they are going to love it. But they will not have that experience in Texas.
In-N-Out may test its waters in Texas, but it is rooted in the California sunshine.