In-N-Out Burger will reach its 75th anniversary on Oct. 22 with its history written by the ultimate insider.
Lynsi Snyder is the owner and president of the fast food chain and the heir of its founders, Harry and Esther Snyder, after the deaths of their two sons, Guy and Rich.
Her book, “The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger,” traces all their lives, what they gave to In-N-Out Burger and what In-N-Out Burger gave to them.
It will be published Tuesday, Oct. 17, five days before her company celebrates its 75th anniversary with a 12-hour festival at the In-N-Out Pomona Dragstrip.
Snyder, 41, was born in 1982, six years after Harry’s death. She inherited the company at Esther’s death in 2006, when she was 24.
She knew her grandmother but was born nearly six years after her grandfather’s death in 1976. Harry and Esther’s two sons died young. Her uncle Rich led the company until his death in a plane crash in 1993. Her father Guy took over with Esther until he died in 1999, when she was 17.
Although Snyder was young, she was immersed in the company all her life, according to her book, and writes she had “apprenticed in almost every In-N-Out department.”
Still, writing the book was a learning experience for her.
“There are honestly things about my grandparents that I learned in this process, and that was really neat. We interviewed several people to get the story right, because I clearly wasn’t around from ‘48 until all the way to ‘82,” she said in a phone interview.
Sadness and success
Getting the story right is important to Snyder, who researched it with the help of longtime In-N-Out employees and company records.
She described the book, a two-year project, as a way to set the record straight about the company and the Snyder family.
“It was very upsetting to read some things that were not accurate, not true. They just had the story wrong. It’s a family, you know. It’s a family. It’s a legacy. I’ve had the desire since the first thing I read that was wrong. It was just a matter of when. We just thought, wow, it would be pretty neat to do it in and release it in the 75th year.”
Themes that run through the book include In-N-Out’s commitment to quality, Christian faith and the importance of family.
Chapter One begins with a Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5-6, which begins, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” which she described as “personal to me” in the interview.
In the chapter, Snyder then describes what it was like to race on the Pomona Dragstrip on March 30 of this year and how it made her feel close to her father Guy, who was a racing fan. Her grandfather Harry was part-owner of the Irwindale Raceway.
“I know a lot of people know about the In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip now,” Snyder said in the interview. “Some of them may not realize we’ve been tied to racing before.”
The book flashes back to Harry and Esther’s impoverished childhoods, service during World War II and how those experiences led to them opening the first In-N-Out drive-thru on Oct. 22, 1948 in Baldwin Park. Customers originally drove up to a small booth and gave their orders directly to the cook. After a few months of awkward communication, Harry built his own two-way speaker system to allow customers to place their orders a few cars in advance. The innovation changed the fast food world, and the Snyders’ hard work set the chain on a path of steady growth.
The book addresses tough subjects. In Chapter Four, “Redemption, she writes about a cycle of abuse in Harry Snyder’s family and how it led to the In-N-Out Foundation to combat child abuse. She also writes about the death of her uncle and her father’s substance abuse.
Writing the book gave Snyder a better understanding of Harry’s struggles, she said.
“I knew that there were some sad pieces to the story, that my grandpa was abused but then learning that his dad was really struggling. I know he was abused as well. It was pretty sad. And it’s also just a huge success story, because I think that his dad didn’t think that he would amount to much. And he made his dream come true, and obviously his success has gone beyond his life.”
Esther’s strong Christian faith made her a beloved role model. Snyder includes memories of her grandmother as well as what it was like to visit In-N-Out headquarters as a child.
Snyder learned In-N-Out from the ground up as well as the top down. She writes about her first job at 17 in a new In-N-Out in Redding, near where she was living with her mother Lynda in Northern California. She had the same tasks as other crew members, including working in the kitchen in full view of drive-thru customers. Her first day was the restaurant’s opening day.
“I was nervous,” she said in the interview. “They had me take the first customer, and this was a brand-new store. I was so nervous. And back then, we didn’t have it telling us how much change to give back. Back then, we had to count it back. It’s pretty simple math, but when you’re nervous and on-the-spot and somewhat kind of freaking out.
“The night before I remember my mom practicing with me. She’s like, ‘So this is if they give you a quarter.’ I’m like,’ Why would they give me a quarter? It’s not 25.’ She’s like, ‘Sometimes people do that to make it easier.’ I’m like, ‘That’s not making it easier!’ But it went fine.
“I enjoyed almost every position there. I really liked being able to interact with the customers. And I do tell people that I enjoyed prepping the lettuce. I think most people don’t realize that would be interacting with the customer, but you’re literally smiling and waving at the customers.”
The book’s narrative is broken up by fun facts for fans of the brand. Among them:
Onions: Snyder shares what kind In-N-Out Uses, Bermuda, and the many ways customers can order them.
Palm trees: In-N-Out’s signature landscaping element are 20-foot Mexican fan palms that are planted to cross each other, as in the 1963 movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
Spread: The condiment used on burgers, similar to Thousand Island dressing, dates from 1948 and was mixed by Harry in a barrel using a wooden ax handle. It’s never called sauce.
Going big on the anniversary
Snyder began planning the book about two years ago, and during most of the time it came together In-N-Out was planning for its 75th anniversary.
Snyder and her husband Sean Ellingson were also involved with Slave 2 Nothing, which she set up in 2016. The nonprofit combats human trafficking and substance abuse, amplifying the work of the In-N-Out Foundation.
Proceeds from the book benefit the In-N-Out Burger Foundation, as will a separately ticketed concert curing the festival called Slave 2 Nothing. It will feature the In-N-Out “family band,” .48 Special, ZZ Top and 311. Snyder said her band has been rehearsing all year.
“We’re not doing anything small here,” Snyder said.
Attractions include a car show, racing and performances by the winners of a Battle of the Bands contest, plus In-N-Out trucks and about 40 items of anniversary merchandise. And the book will be available there as well.
“I’m really happy that the story is being told,” Snyder said. “I’m sure we don’t have everything, but we have a lot. We’ll be able to give the customers and the In-N-Out family the true story from the beginning.”
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‘The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger’
Author: Lynsi Snyder
Publication date: Oct. 17
Publisher: Nelson Books
List Price: $26.99
Information: 208 pages; thomasnelson.com
In-N-Out 75th Anniversary Festival
When: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 22.
Where: In-N-Out Pomona Dragstrip, 2780 Fairplex Drive, Pomona.
Tickets: Sold out.