Esther Snyder, the founder of In-N-Out Burger, passed away Friday. She was 86. In-N-Out Burger, as many of you likely know, is the cult burger chain on the West coast that was born in the same cradle of post-WWII America’s love affair with the road as many of our most familiar U.S. brands. But In-N-Out always did things a little differently, focusing ruthlessly on the customer and adopting a slow-growth strategy that’s the very antithesis of McDonald’s and virtually all the other burger chains that came of age alongside the interstate highway system.
In-N-Out’s vice president of operations, Mark Taylor, will take the helm as president. Companies often lose their way when the founder’s no longer there to guide the company. That relentless focus on customers gets lip service while growth is pursued. Here’s hoping that Taylor doesn’t lose sight of the value of In-N-Out’s mystery and its devotion to customers. This is especially true for those of us who don’t live out West. How many burger chains are destinations outside of their region to tourists? In-N-Out doesn’t really talk to the press, has kept the chain manageable in size, and it’s worked. So keep Esther Snyder in your thoughts, both the next time you go to In-N-Out and while you’re running your business.