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Updated Feb 14, 2024

In-N-Out Burger President Lynsi Snyder Serves Up ‘Slow-Growth Philosophy’ (Full Q&A)

Rob Gabriele, Contributing Writer
Lynsi Synder book cover

Very few restaurants are legitimate tourist destinations, but for countless visitors to California, no trip is complete without a visit to In-N-Out Burger. The iconic fast-food chain sells over $1 billion of burgers, fries, and sodas each year and has even expanded to Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Utah. The popular eatery is privately owned by Lynsi Snyder, grandaughter of founders Harry and Esther Snyder.

Lynsi’s new book, The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger, contains plenty of business advice, but foremost, it’s an extremely personal memoir full of family tragedies and personal growth. She told b. about why she’s opening up, how In-N-Out serves its employees as well as customers, and the way to grow without sacrificing quality for quantity.

b.: Your book is about faith, family, quality burgers, and race cars — in that order. What impact do you want the book to have?

Snyder: I have wanted to share the story of In-N-Out Burger for many years. Other people who are not connected to the company have tried in the past and honestly gotten many of the facts wrong. So, I set out to honestly talk about the hardships and joys we have faced over the last 75 years.

This book is a way for me to share about my family, the company’s founding, and the people that make In-N-Out so special. More importantly, this book is a way for me to give credit to God for his faithfulness through the years and to honor the legacy and leadership of my grandparents, uncle and father.

b.: Your grandfather was a hard-nosed leader, but you also write about his violent temper. You bring a radically different leadership style to In-N-Out. What does this approach look like in the day to day? 

Snyder: Love is an integral part of my faith and vital to how we treat our associates. It means treating them like family, paying them well, [and] providing them opportunities to grow and learn. I try to model and teach servant leadership, which fosters an atmosphere of caring and lifting others up, giving grace, and disciplining out of trying to make us all better.

b.: The average In-N-Out restaurant manager earns over $180,000 per year (including store profit-sharing). That’s a whole lot of money!

Snyder: We will always invest in our associates because offering the highest wages in the industry is one way we attract the best people to care for our customers, who are our No. 1 asset.

b.: You stepped in as president of In-N-Out at just 27 years young [after Lynsi’s uncle and father both had tragic deaths]. Did you feel anyone doubted your ability to run the business at such a young age, and if so, how does it feel to have proven them wrong?

Snyder: I don’t think anyone ever feels ready to step into a role of that nature. While I was young when I became president in 2010, I first started working at In-N-Out when I was 17 years old. Through the years, I learned the ropes of In-N-Out by working in stores and almost every department of the company — carpentry, the meat department, and managing the marketing department — for years.

After I became president, my intention was to lead the company with the same values that had been passed to me. Quality and freshness would always be important, and I had no plans to radically change the company. Serving the customer would always be first in my mind.

I began my tenure as president by asking: How can we make our In-N-Out family better? How can we encourage our associates to continue to serve our customers with quality and excellence? How can we make our customers happier without ever compromising or changing our core values?

From the start, I had an amazing team of executives and managers who helped enormously. To this day, I continue to surround myself with leaders who can complement and challenge my own leadership style and provide wisdom and encouragement.

b.: What was the biggest surprise from that first year, and how did it make you a better leader?

Snyder: After I became president, drama from divorce and a whole bunch of other personal relationships distracted me from my kids and work. It was one of the toughest years of my life. Through those seasons, I learned to trust in God and prioritize to ensure God came first, then my family and then my work.

b.: You write candidly about tough learning experiences and heartbreaking family losses. How did you learn to see setbacks as opportunities?

Snyder: To me, setbacks are a reminder to lean on the Lord and not on my own understanding. When He is the priority, the stress and disappointments can be handled because you know that He is ultimately in control. I also know that God can use my failures for future success in myself and others.

b.: In-N-Out is known for its “Easter eggs,” hidden gems like your not-so-secret menu and the crossed palm trees in front of your restaurants (inspired by It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World). What companies do you feel do a great job at similarly showing personality?

Snyder: I love to support local companies and one of my favorites is Rad Coffee. The owner, Jade Valore, is creative and understands the importance of quality and service.

b.: In-N-Out has nearly 400 locations across seven U.S. states. How can leaders find the right balance between growing quickly but also sustainably?

Snyder: We deliberately champion a slow-growth philosophy at In-N-Out. Long ago we decided to grow only as fast as we can develop quality leaders. We don’t grow to grow. With quality leaders in place, we can continue to ensure our high standards and grow at a calculated pace.

The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger is available now.

This article first appeared in the b. Newsletter. Subscribe now!

Rob Gabriele, Contributing Writer
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