December 25, 2007 5:48 PM

Winter Break (In-N-Out)

Last Saturday my friend drove me down from Berkeley to LA. There were four of us in the car; Ezra (the driver), Milton, Danny, and myself. We had to leave early, because Milton had to be at a wedding at 5. Half an hour out from Berkeley, he realized he had forgot his suit, so we had to turn around and get it. So we left Berkeley around 10.

For those of you traveling by car from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, prepare for a long ride. Luckily we didn't have too much traffic, but I have heard some horror stories. One friend was driving up right after the Thanksgiving break. He left his home at 1 PM. By the time he had picked up everyone else and gotten to Berkeley, it was 1 AM. He resolved to never make the mistake of leaving so late again.

The car ride was uneventful. We talked, laughed, and joked around. These three guys are from my fellowship, which is the closest circle of friends I have at Berkeley, so we had a lot of in-jokes and fun memories to share.

We stopped at an In-N-Out for lunch. For those of you not familiar with it, In-N-Out is a popular fast food chain in California. They are known for their quality burgers and great customer service. In-N-Out is noteworthy in that it pays its employees $10.50/hour, as opposed to the California minimum wage of $8.00/hour (which is higher than the federal mandated rate of $5.85/hour). I really do enjoy their burgers, their fresh ingredients and their tasty fries.

One thing I noted about In-N-Out was how tremendously crowded it was at the time we arrived. The line stretched from the register and out the doors. Of course, it had to be crowded at 1:00, peak lunchtime hour. The place was packed, but luckily we were able to get our food quickly. We also saw Welson, another guy from the fellowship, in a completely unexpected meeting.

In-N-Out has a ferociously loyal following, with good reason; their quality is good, their prices reasonable, and their service fantastic. I couldn't help but think about all the other restaurants along the highway, though. I was thinking about all those small restaurants that were not getting regular business because of In-N-Out. Now, I am a fan of In-N-Out; I like the perspective they have on fast food. Oftentimes, however, our desire for the familiar in food precludes me from trying something new or different. We tend to trust large franchises over small independent eateries, as if one is superior to the other.

By giving our business to large corporate interests like McDonald's, Burger King, or even In-N-Out, we are subtly undermining the ability of smaller businesses to thrive. These small businesses are then liable to be replaced by larger corporate stores, and pretty soon communities are populated by franchises and chain stores.

This is, of course, a highly simplified model. Undoubtedly there are many flaws and misconceptions about the nature of business and economics. These are issues that I would like to learn more about, if given the opportunity.

Anyways, if any of you have never tried In-N-Out, I strongly urge you to go and try it out, preferably with a friend. Just don't eat too much of it. It's unhealthy to eat too much of that stuff.

Joel Kim | Permalink | Comment on this article | Comments (1)

Comments (1)

I'm one of those loyal In & Out customers! For those who are vegetarian, I recommend their animal-style grilled cheese and french fries!

Posted by Tina | 2007-12-26

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