I still remember where I was when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas. It was February 11th, 1990. I was 15 and trying to look cool at a Multi-Stake Dance in Magna, Utah. I spent most of the night adjusting my skinny tie, swaying to "Poison" by Bel Biv Devoe (BBD to those who were cool in 1990), and slow dancing to "Nothing Compares 2 U". And yes, there was usually a Book of Mormon space between me and my dance partner.
At one point during the evening I was standing around talking with a group of guys when one of my friends came in from outside. He had a dazed, stunned, almost somber look on his face. As he weaved toward me, oblivious to the crowd, I though he was going to tell me that something terrible had happened. You know, like my mom had been in a horrible car accident or that he had lost my pair of Girbeaud jeans that I had let him borrow. When he got to me, he lowered the boom with just four words,
"Dude, Tyson got KO'd."
Time stood still. The room started to spin. "Groove Is In The Heart" faded into the background. The world as I knew it ceased to exist. The indestructible, unbeatable, baddest-man-on-the-planet, Iron Mike Tyson, had just lost to some schlep named Buster. What? Who? How?
So what does this have to do with fast food?
Well, In-N-Out is officially the Buster Douglas of my fast food universe. Before the original fast food post I never would have placed In-N-Out in the top-10 most popular restaurants if I were trying to guess them. I've only been there once and it was not particularly memorable. I have seen some In-N-Out t-shirts throughout the course of my life, but had never before realized exactly how popular the place is.
The fight appears to be over, and In-N-Out is the undisputed heavyweight champion of the fast food world. After 160 votes, the In-N-Out cheeseburger is the most popular menu item with 26% of the vote. Similarly, In-N-Out has been voted the most popular restaurant with 25% of the vote. The poll only objectively quantified what I was concluding from the comments that you were all leaving - people are really, really, really passionate about their In-N-Out. Which begs the obvious question:
WHY IS IN-N-OUT ONLY LOCATED IN UTAH, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, AND NEVADA?
Does this have anything to do with these four states being the predominant Mormon states of the union? Is it some sort of divine reward only granted to the LDS states? (Okay, I excluded Idaho. But come one, Idaho is really only Utah, Jr. so it doesn't count). Was something bred into our collective DNA as our ancestors pulled handcarts across the plains that would eventually addict us to an Animal Style Cheeseburger? What gives? I am tempted to call their corporate offices and see if they would be willing to let me open some stores in the southeast. It sounds like a lot more fun than flying across the United States laying people off. Anybody want to invest?
While we are talking about me flying around for work and desiring to open up a fast food franchise, I have another idea as well. For a period of time last year I was responsible for overseeing HR in our Latin America facilities. One of them was in El Salvador, and I made several trips down there. The first time I flew home from San Salvador I saw almost every passenger bringing two carry-ons onto the plane. Both carry-ons consisted of Wal-Mart-type plastic bags full of orange cardboard boxes that were similar in size and shape to a shoe box. I could not figure out what everybody was carrying. After about five minutes the entire plane smelled like a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The woman sitting next to me had her arms full of the orange boxes so I asked her what she was taking back to the US with her. Her answer was simple:
Pollo Campero is like the KFC of El Salvador. Between the 200 people on the flight there were probably 800 boxes of fried wings, breasts, and thighs on the plane. When I asked my seat mate why everybody was taking chicken instead of iPods and Sudoku on a 6-hour international flight, she informed me that there are very few Pollo Campero locations in the US. Apparently her nieces and nephews missed the stuff so much that they still wanted to eat it after a 10-hour ordeal from the time she purchased it until she got it to them in Maryland. Mmmmmmm.....salmonella-licious. It is safe to say that El Salvadorians are as addicted to Pollo Campero as Mormons are to In-N-Out. Again, anybody want to invest?
Thanks to everybody who participated in the poll and left good comments. This has truly been an enlightening experience. A popular song from 1990 perfectly sums up how I feel right now.
"Dance, Bum rush the speaker that booms
I'm killing your brain like a poisonous mushroom
Deadly, when I play a dope melody
Anything less than the best is a felony
Love it or leave it, You better gain way
You better hit bull's eye, The kid don't play
If there was a problem, Yo, I'll solve it
Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it"
Okay, that had nothing to do with my feelings, but Ice Ice Baby was my favorite song in 1990. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to put on my skinny tie, shave stripes into my eyebrows, and then call the CEO's of In-N-Out and Pollo Campero.
***MY COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR COMMENTS***
-Let the In-N-Out conspiracy theories begin! Between the comments made by 2che, acte gratuit, gregorylemon, and andymann, the whole In-N-Out operation sounds secretive and mysterious. Anti-Mormon Born Again Christians? Geographic restrictions? Family-only ownership? In-N-Out sounds like the fast food equivalent of the Illuminati or Opus Dei from Da Vinci Code. With so much money to be made by going national, it makes me wonder what diabolical secrets lie at the heart of the company that they want to protect from the rest of the country. My personal theory is that they are secretly assembling a powerful army of robotic cats that they will use to take over the world. That's just my theory, though.
Gretchen - You make a great point. How in the world did Chick-fil-A come in second place in the voting for both best menu item (chicken sandwich) and best restaurant? That was also a total shocker. I though Wendy's had #2 in the bag, especially given the popularity of the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. Here is my theory: Most of the people who voted are LDS and respect Chick-fil-A for closing on Sundays. In fact, the Chick-fil-A purpose statement is, "To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with our business." How cool is that? I find it interesting that the restaurants that scored highest in the poll had two important characteristics. 1-Both Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out offer very limited, simple menus. 2-Both chains were started by devoutly religious men (In-N-Out by Rich Snyder, a born-again Christian and Chick-fil-A by S. Truett Cathy, a Southern Baptist.) Using that formula, all we need is for Mitt Romney to open a fast food chain that only offers plain hamburgers and water....
Debbie and Meier Family (Candice) - Thank you for the NKOTB reference and for admitting that you practiced the dance moves to Ice Ice Baby. The most embarrassing video that exists of me involves both of those elements. When "Hangin' Tough" by NKOTB was popular I shot a music video where I lip synced the entire song and did the dance moves from the MTV video. That's right, I waved my arm above my head while doing the running man. If you think NKOTB looked nerdy doing that dance routine, you should have seen a gangly Mormon teen-ager with no rhythm trying to pull it off. (Note to my family: If any of you post that video on You Tube, I WILL hunt you down.)