Consider this story to juicy to pass up — and ripe for a little grilling. Who knows best about the nature of demand in a competitive fast-food market on the West Coast? Why, a DC-based non-profit that opposes the use of meat, of course. When the Good Food Institute started a petition drive to demand a vegetarian option at In-N-Out, the Huffington Post jumped on the bandwagon by claiming that America’s got a fevah and the only prescription is less cowbell:
We’re always pumped when veggie burgers pop up on restaurant menus. And according to one campaign, America really wants veggie burgers at In-N-Out.
This week, buzz is building around an online petition asking the beloved burger chain to add a veggie burger to its menu. The call to action, started by a D.C.-based nonprofit for clean food, currently has more than 24,000 signatures on Change.org.
“If you want a meat-free meal at In-N-Out, you’re going to be stuck eating multiple orders of French fries or a cheese-slathered bun,” reads the petition from the Good Food Institute. “In-N-Out has been letting its fans down by failing to serve anything that would satisfy a burger-loving customer who wants a healthy, humane, and sustainable option.”
This caught my eye because, as a native Southern California, I know a thing or two about In-N-Out. First, the nearest outlet’s in Texas, at least 1500 miles away from DC, and most of them are on the West Coast or Interior West. Why a DC-based vegetarian activist group would bother with a regional player is mystifying, especially since it’s clear that they don’t have the first clue as to what makes In-N-Out or its customers tick.
In-N-Out has been around almost 70 years, a family business currently owned by the only grandchild of the founders, Harry and Esther Snyder. It has thrived for a few reasons, but one of those has been simplicity. While other burger joints added chicken and fish sandwiches, built all sorts of burger options, and experimented with side dishes, In-N-Out stuck to the basics: hamburger, cheeseburger, and the Double-Double, along with fries, soft drinks, and shakes. It doesn’t innovate — it excels at its core function. For that reason, long lines appear regularly at the drive-thru locations.
Now, if those customers suddenly stopped showing up because there were no vegetarian options, In-N-Out would probably add them, the way other burger joints have. So far, though, there’s no let-up in their business. And even if they did add a veggie patty to the options, HuffPo’s honest enough to note that it wouldn’t actually make much difference:
Some vegan eaters argue In-N-Out shouldn’t be supported because it serves meat, while some meat-lovers point out there are plenty of specialty restaurants besides In-N-Out where both vegans and vegetarians can get their burger fix. (As if there could be too many!)
So it’s not as though In-N-Out is missing out on an untapped market. The same people who supposedly demand a vegetarian “option” begrudge the meat-eating “option” enough to take a pass. Besides, getting 24,000 signatures on this petition is a joke. They have 300 locations serving up thousands of burgers daily to people who like their product. They’re not going to get too concerned about 24,000 people signing up for a political diktat run by a group that’s half a continent away from its nearest grill.
This is the very definition of elitism, and its almost-always-present ignorance and arrogance. America doesn’t want a veggie burger at In-N-Out. A few busybodies want to shame In-N-Out (and its customers) for its success, and couldn’t care less whether they ever eat there or not.
Earlier, I mentioned the simplicity of the menu, but there is a small caveat to that. Longtime customers know that In-N-Out has a few off-menu options. The front-page image is the 4×4, a twist on the Double-Double that has four meat patties and four slices of cheese, taken right before I devoured it. That should be enough to make GFI run for the nearest Good Earth Restaurant — which, by the way, is excellent as well. One person can easily enjoy both experiences. That’s what is so great about free markets and consumer choice.