In-N-Out: What They Are Really All About
Secret menus, hidden Christian messages, and a refusal to open franchises are just some of the quirks that the In-N-Out Burger Corporation is famous for. But what's more is that these factoids are part of an interesting history that has been for years largely secret. But those days are over, because now it has been compiled into an informative 345 page book by author Stacy Perman. ": A Behind-The-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules" documents the origins of the infamous burger empire that is a cultural staple in Southern California. It takes readers from the mild beginnings of the chain that invented drive-thru service after World War Two out of spare parts and according to Perman "[the] idea of selling hamburgers as fresh as possible as fast as possible."
The book tells the partially undisclosed tale of Harry Snyder and his wife Esther who began with "a simple red brick structure with a two lane drive-through," that stands empty in Baldwin Park California now, but at one time was mobbed with hot-rod enthusiasts and surfers alike. It dips into the mysterious beginnings of the "secret menu" and other subtle nuances that give the chain its character. Most interestingly however it follows the dramatic story of the founding family, through an unfortunate plane crash, power struggles, and numerous attempted corporate buyouts.
Perman spoke on April 28 about her book to a crowd of people at Santa Monica's Public Library, after reading several excerpts and talking briefly about her process of writing she began to take questions from the crowd who were all to eager to learn even more about what seemed to be a very important part of their lives.
There, she described the process of collecting information for the book as "very difficult," her reasoning being that "all four of the primary members of the proprietor family are now dead, they'd rarely do press so there wasn't like a wealth of articles."
It was because of this that Perman had to approach the story as if it were an "onion" meaning that she would be forced to peel away the layers. Throughout her work on the project she claims to have interviewed as many as 100 different individuals, and even had a draft of the book at the publisher when she was approached by an anonymous person who gave her inside information on the company which proved to be vital.
Her reasoning behind tackling this kind of a story was simple, Perman said "it just occurred to me that I kind of grew up with this phenomenon, but I knew very little about it." Originally Perman intended to write nothing more than a magazine article but as she said "as soon as I was doing it, I realized that the story was much much bigger."
In its totality "In-N-Out Burger" is an in depth exploration of a family who's company did not follow the typical expansive behavior of other fast-food icons, but instead forged their own path through the murky business world and celebrates their product with well deserved ambiguity. Perman's extensive investigation into this company and the proprietor family produced an interesting wealth of knowledge, and tells a tale that many patrons would have otherwise taken for granted.