[Photo Credit: mrjoro]
Esther Snyder, who with her late husband co-founded In-N-Out, died last week at the age of 86. In-N-Out introduced the drive-up window with two-way speakers in 1948, setting in motion an entirely new interface of automobile and food, and we've (OK, some of us) been eating differently ever since.
The privately-held company, long considered secretive, was valued at $450M in court filings earlier this year, but remained close to its simple values of fresh-cooked food with with fresh ingredients. The original location in near Los Angeles put it close to suppliers of lettuce and tomatoes, as well as the dairy cows that eventually retired to become hamburgers, and In-N-Out maintains its own bakery and beef processing plant. Unwilling to freeze any ingredients, it has no locations beyond a day's drive from their headquarters, so In-N-Out remains a fundamentally Western chain, refusing to expand quickly and presumably carrying very little debt. A model of simplicity, focussing on a few classic items, and paying it's lowest level staff 40% above minimum wage plus benefits. In-N-Out's idiosyncratic ways included accepting only cash (until very recently) and sending employees outdoors with wireless handheld devices during peak periods to take orders.