Monday, October 26, 2009

In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman reads more like a biography than a business book. The intro is wonderful, but then next few chapters focus a little too much on the parents of the founders and their family history. A little bit of background into their family is essential in this story, but it just took a few chapters to even get to the founding on In-N-Out. From there, the story was wonderful, although I kept getting hungrier with every page. Don’t read this on an empty stomach! My mouth started watering during the intro, so much so that I started contemplating the drive to Arizona.
The book starts off talking about the massive lines when they opened the location in Tucson. People showed up during the night before the opening to wait. They piled into the store in lines 7-8 people wide and hundreds deep. Cars snaked around the block. They set up a trailer in the parking lot to have two kitchens and even that couldn’t help keep up with the demand. But the employees kept smiling, service never wavered, and everyone left happy. The heart of this book is how do you create a brand like that? But, it tells the story in a unique way. It follows the advice of fiction writers and shows people how to do this instead of telling them the top 10 ways to build a brand or something like typical business book would do. It made for more interesting reading this way.
One of the key ways In-N-Out built such a huge following is the way they take care of their employees. Even from the beginning, well before such things were taught in any business school, they called their employees “associates” and paid them well over the minimum wage. They also paid them bonuses in savings bonds at Christmas. The Snyders knew that treating their employees with respect wasn’t just the humane and Christian way to do things, but it was also good for business. Keep your employees happy and smiling, and they’ll keep your customers happy and smiling. It’s that simple. You don’t need a fancy business degree to see the truth in that. This book reminded me of how much we overcomplicate things sometimes. Just treat others well and provide a quality service or product. It’s not that complicated. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s not complicated. You don’t need Six Sigma and fancy customer service systems. You just need common sense, something that most people seem to lack these days.
I became very interested in the story of Rich Snyder (one of the founders' sons) and was sad about his death. He was giving, not only to charities but to employees. He paid for any employee to adopt a child if they couldn't have children, and paid for the adoption costs for a friend as well. Can you imagine being able to help people that way? He was also the one who put the Bible verses on their cups. It will be interesting to see how things play out for the restaurant as Lynsi (granddaughter of the founders and sole heir) takes over. She's my age! I can't imagine having that opportunity or that pressure from such a young age. She's been the sole heir since high school. Crazy.

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