In-N-Out keeps popping up far from home
Since December 2011, In-N-Out Burger, the iconic California chain, has been opening brief pop-ups around the world with no plans to expand far from its California and Southwest base.
The tour has reached 26 countries, including Peru, Chile, Russia, Ukraine, England, Spain, Australia and Southeast Asia. Last Thursday, its 37th event occurred in Toronto.
In typical fashion, the Toronto pop-up was introduced with little fanfare through a small classified ad in a local newspaper that tends to blow up in social media. The events are held for a few hours and appear to draw throngs of crowds and local media attention. In Toronto, the chain planned to offer its burgers for one day from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. People started to line up at 6:30 a.m. T-shirts were also sold for $3.00 Canadian.
The reason for the pop-ups remains ambiguous.
The chain, known for its slow expansion, has no plans to open locations in other countries. It operates more than 280 restaurants in California, Utah, Texas, Arizona and Nevada. Part of its expansion challenge is its reputation for fresh good and commitment to never freezing patties. It will only open new restaurants within a day’s drive of four distribution centers. (The meat at the pop-ups are locally sourced.)
With speculation about an entry into Colorado, a company official told the Denver Post that the chain plans to focus expansion on the five states in which it operates over the next few years. In-N-Out is also a family-owned company that doesn’t believe in franchising.
One reason for the tour appears to be to promote the buzz around the brand when tourists visit the states where it has locations. Brian Nakao, In-N-Out’s manager of special foreign events, told the Globe and Mail that he often meets people who have vacationed in California and want to share the In-N-Out experience with others.
When asked about their intentions with past pop-ups in London, Tokyo and Singapore, In-N-Out has sent out this statement several times: "We have done events like this before in other countries and they are just one part of our efforts to promote and expand our brand as well as determine the best way to continue reaching out to customers around the world. We do not have any immediate plans to open a permanent restaurant there but this special event will help us make future decisions."
- Why is there a surprise In-N-Out Burger pop-up happening in Toronto? – Globe and Mail
- In-N-Out Burger pop-up shop: was it worth the wait? – Toronto Star
- In-N-Out Still Traveling the World With Latest Pop-Up in London – Serious Eats
- Four Reasons Why In-N-Out Burger Won’t Expand To The East Coast – Business Insider
- In-N-Out Burger still says its "slow-growth plan" does not include Colorado for now – Denver Post
What do you think is behind In-N-Out’s worldwide pop-up tour? Can you think of some other regional chains that would benefit from global pop-ups?