Last Fast Food Post, Then I'll Shut Up About It

Friday, May 16, 2008

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:


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."

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.


-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.)


2Che said...

In-N-Out has a policy to only open restaurants within a certain radius of their headquarters in So Cal. Hence, the concentration in AZ, NV and CA.

9:34 PM
Braden said...

I think Idaho is actually second place in terms of MoMo population, so there goes that theory.

9:57 PM
acte gratuit said...
This comment has been removed by the author. 5:45 AM
acte gratuit said...

I believe In n Out is owned by Born-Agains. There is even a tiny scripture reference printed on the bottom of their food packaging.

When I was in high school, the CMW (conventional Mormon wisdom) was that they'd NEVER open a store in Utah because they hated Mormons. Guess they decided to forgive the religion to get big bucks.

BTW, never has so much been written about so little!

(Just teasin'. I'm accused of this all the time.)

5:47 AM

We don't have an In-N-Out in Oregon, either. I could sure use some good fast food about now, too! Even Cafe Rio sounds good, which, again, they do not have here. I went to subway yesterday before taking the kids to the park and was informed that they only $5 footlongs were the gross ones, like the tuna. What's up with that? No turkey? No ham? I am definetely trying Quiznos next time! Love the topic, it is nice to talk about something different when everything else seems to always be the same!


10:05 AM
GregoryLemon said...

If Wikipedia can be believed, In-N-Out doesn't allow independent franchises like other restaurants (McD's, Subway, etc.) All of the "In-N-Out" restaurants are owned by the same company.

10:22 AM
Debbie said...

Personally, not much of a fast food fan to begin with, but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down music memory lane. I can hear BBD in my head as I'm reading your blog. And I was especially attached to the one-hit-wonder Ice Ice Baby during my freshman year in college where my roommates and I would practice the moves from his video down the hall.

What a rush, I think I'll tease my bangs into a "claw" and roll up my pants at the bottom (to give that tapered look) and head to a dance to do the electric slide. Thanks for helping me reminisce my youth!

11:35 AM

Oh, yea, did anyone catch the NKOTB on the morning news yesterday? Talk about memory lane! The Right Stuff, moves and all, but horribly sung! What were we thinking back then? We would buy into anything as teenagers!

2:50 PM
Andymann said...

I talked to a guy in Las Vegas and he said the franchises are owned by family members. They have slowly moved into new areas where others do not live and have branched out. They won't franchise with anyone outside the family so you need to find a single cousin or something who wants to marry for money.

3:30 PM
Gretchen said...

Yah, yah, so In-N-Out's superiority and it's exclusive franchising are old news to me. The shocker to me is the 2nd place finisher. Chick-fil-A? Seriously??? All your readers must me girly red-meat-o-phobes who like bland food with too much mayo!!!

3:42 PM
Bekah said...

I totally voted for Chick-fil-A. I'm from Georgia, and I now live in Idaho (thanks to my husband, of course). Um, I have never eaten anything fast food that is even remotely as good as a Chick-fil-A sandwich. It is succulent and juicy, crispy yet soft. Their food is probably what I miss most about home. Well, er, except for my family, of course. Have you noticed that just recently both Arby's and McDonald's have come out with new "Southern-style" chicken sandwiches to try and imitate Chick-fil-A's success? Ha! Fools! They could never possibly be as good as the original. Also, the Chick-fil-A sandwich comes with no mayo. All the flavor it needs is in that chicken breast pressure cooked in peanut oil and those two pickles. Crap. Now I'm really hungry.

1:01 PM
Lindsey said...

For those die-hard In-N-Out fans, you are probably already aware but in American Fork, Utah there is a restaurant that is creepily similar to In-N-Out called Chadders. It is so similar that In-N-Out was threatening a lawsuit against Chadders when it opened. I am unaware if the lawsuit ever came to fruition, but there you go. There is an alternative if one wants to drive to American Fork (lucky for me, I don't live too far away).

10:55 AM
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12:46 AM
Megan said...

I've never even been to Chik-Fil-A. I've only ever seen them in malls and there's just something terribly plastic about mall food. Notice no one voted for S'barro... :)

5:28 PM
Cheryl said...

My brother (who lives in the south)said the first time he ate at In-N-Out he thought 'eh, a burger' but he said something about them kept him coming back. Six months and 20 pounds later, he schedules his flights through airports that have an In-N-Out. And he travels a lot.
What exactly is in those burgers? I think it's more that the 'never frozen meat obtained from a single processing plant' (the offical explaination of why they only have locations in the west). What is in that special sauce?
Conspiracy? I think so.

Also, my brother said the ownership of the business is a sad tale. It is family owned, but the head of the company (first the founder, then his son, then his granddaughter)have met untimely deaths. The company is now run by the founder's wife who is not willing to relinquish control to outsiders.
It could be a true story. But my brother also told me that my parents found me in a gutter . . . so I'd research the story before publishing it as a credible tale.

7:28 AM
Jill said...

There's an In-N-Out in Utah?
Did you just say that there's an In -N-Out in Utah????


I must know!

7:17 AM