by SHREYA SHANTHARAJ and ANNIE LIN
To many of us living on the West Coast, In-N-Out has served as a staple in our diets for years. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many were shocked when the company announced its newest addition to the menu: hot cocoa. Even more noteworthy is the fact that there hasn’t been a change to the traditional In-N-Out menu for nearly 15 years. However, this is not the first debut of the hot cocoa: it was initially added to the menu in the 1950s, but it was taken off shortly after.
Now more than half a century later, the hot cocoa has reappeared. Made with water and Ghiradelli mix and topped with optional marshmallows, the hot cocoa is served in both small and large sizes. Although hot cocoa may be an odd addition to the normal burger and fries that In-N-Out is known for, the drink does go along with the American diner-style theme that In-N-Out embodies.
Curious to see if the newbie item lived up to the In-N-Out standard, we set out to try the hot cocoa for ourselves. At first glance, this hot commodity is served in an insulated cup that displays the token In-N-Out palm trees all around it. The drink itself, however, didn’t provide the same satisfaction that In-N-Out usually does. The consistency of the hot cocoa was rather watery and wasn’t as decadent as we had hoped. Although we don’t plan on purchasing the drink again, it was still a nice treat on a gloomy day. Speaking of which, kids under twelve can enjoy the drink for free on rainy days.
Unlike most other well-known fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s or Burger King, all 329 In-N-Out stores are still owned today by Lynsi Snyder, granddaughter of In-N-Out’s founder, and the Snyder family. As a result, the stores have remained privately-owned, and have garnered a family-like attitude towards all their customers and employees.
The simplistic menu consisting of hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes has served families the staples of the classic American diner. Snyder’s attitude towards maintaining quality food and service exists in all stores’ standards. Staying true to its motto of “Quality you can taste,” In-N-Out prepares all of its food in stores. “We don’t have any freezers or microwaves since we want to serve everything fresh to customers,” said associate Aberdeen Fernandez. Because of the company’s strict policy on quality control, all store locations are within 300 miles of the company’s distribution facilities, which also explains the company’s clear interests in not expanding beyond the five states they currently operate in.
Every In-N-Out associate begins his or her career at the bottom of the company. Regardless of their current position—such as a store, district, or regional manager—they start as a Level 1 associate, sweeping the floors and wiping down the tables. “It sets a healthy company dynamic, since you won’t be bossed around by someone who has never been in your position before,” said an In-N-Out employee, “There will never be someone with a higher position that won’t know and hasn’t done your job.”
Once employees start to work their way up within the company, they receive promotions and “level up”; Level 2 associates take orders at the front counter or at the drive-thru pay window. “It’s a fast paced, competitive, but fun work place. You really get to enjoy the interactions with customers and the warmth from being like a family with the other employees,” said one of Fernandez’s colleagues. They can work their way up to being at Level 7, which is the entry-level to management that enables them to start running shifts. After achieving that level, associates may go to In-N-Out University where they learn to become a manager. Managers do not, however, own the specific store they manage, and is still ran under the Snyder Family’s ownership.
It seems as though In-N-Out’s menu was better without its new addition. Although In-N-Out may not have the best hot cocoa, its other qualities of providing fresh food and a welcoming, family-friendly ambiance still make the store a popular dining spot among all age groups. Employees enjoy their experience working with a family-like group of cohorts and providing a quality experience for customers, who also reciprocate this friendly demeanor. For these reasons and more, In-N-Out remains a West Coast favorite.