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So, You Want To Become The Employer Of Choice? What We Can All Learn From In-N-Out Burger

At least a few times a month, I’m involved in a meeting or discussion with restaurant owners and operators who mention wanting to become the “employer of choice.” But, what exactly does that mean? And what do you need to do to get there?

Let’s take a look at how one fast food chain has mastered the concept.


In-N-Out Burger

In-N-Out Burger has a reputation for getting it right, time and time again. First opened in 1948, the company has remained family-owned ever since, opting out of franchising their more than 300 locations spread throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Oregon.

With an estimated 16,000 employees, they have ranked in the top ten Best Places to Work, landing among notoriously tough contenders like Facebook and Google who have long been recognized for their outstanding employee benefits and culture.

So how have they managed to become an employer of choice? Turns out, they have lessons that we should all learn.


Prioritizing Their People

Above all else, In-N-Out Burger takes care of their people. And by doing so, a happier workplace evolves where the team also takes excellent care of the patrons. It’s a cycle that keeps on giving and is amazingly self-sustaining.

Here’s how In-N-Out puts their teammates first:

Wages. Employees are paid a wage significantly higher than many other fast food chains. All new hires start out at a minimum of $11.00 per hour, a large jump above the industry median hourly wage of $9.35.

Benefits. Benefits are offered to both part- and full-time employees, something that is virtually unheard of for those in the former group. Part-time associates can receive vision and dental coverage, life insurance, and accidental death and disability. Up to one week of paid vacation, holiday pay, access to 401(k) and profit sharing plans, and a free meal on work days all await part-time employees as well. Full-time teammates gain medical insurance and annual paid vacation of at least two weeks.

Development opportunities. In-N-Out also offers an ongoing training program. They are dedicated to promoting from within, so much so, that all managerial employees are cultivated from their hourly associates.


Cultural Uniqueness and Transparency

The other big move that In-N-Out has made is to maintain a high level of transparency on top of establishing a unique culture.

When starting out, the founders didn’t try to copy another restaurant’s culture. Instead, they identified and focused on their vision, purpose, and values and formed a strong foundation around those. They took the time to nurture a culture that would draw in their ideal employees, bucking the system in the process and going against the trend set by their competitors who generally offered lower pay and fewer or no benefits.

And In-N-Out has been vocal about what sets them apart. Check out their Behind the Signvideo, which showcases the reasons why employees love it there. Flexible scheduling, the fun and upbeat atmosphere, and the ability to keep busy, move ahead, and earn well all frequently top the list. The company simply isn’t afraid to show exactly who they are and what they value most.


One Final Thought

In-N-Out chose to be the employer of choice first, not the restaurant of choice. They focused on their people and taking care of them, demonstrating to the world what a healthy, caring, and mutually beneficial relationship between employees and an employer can look like. And in doing so, In-N-Out Burger has since become the restaurant of choice for many.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram for more HR and leadership insights. For speaking engagements and consulting services, visit me here. Or check out my company, Restaurant HR Group, to learn how we help restaurants manage their greatest assets.

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