Inside In-N-Out Burger’s Powerful Employee Experience

Building an authentic, influential brand is about more than the customer experience. The best brands work from the inside out to create a positive environment for their employees as well. Of course, employee experience directly impacts customer experience, especially in industries where customers and employees must frequently interact. There is perhaps no industry in which this holds more true than in food service.

In-N-Out Burger, the fast food company we recently hailed as a “branding genius,” is in the news again. This time, the attention is on their dedication to the employee experience. From “crazy good pay” to work-life balance, In-N-Out Burger has come to be seen as the leader in fast food employee experience. Let’s take a look inside the brand and explore how its employee’s experience contributes to its success.

It Starts with Leadership

There’s no surprise here: employee experience starts at the top with brand leadership. Nation’s Restaurant News, which recently ranked In-N-Out Burger as the fast food franchise with the greatest customer loyalty, has also named the brand’s President and owner, Lynsi Snyder, number 6 on their annual “NRN Power List.” Snyder, the only grandchild of In-N-Out’s founders Harry and Esther Snyder, remains dedicated to the family-centric approach that was so important to her grandparents.

In addition to keeping the company a private enterprise (one of the major ingredients of its ongoing mystique and cache among consumers), this commitment to family extends to the company’s employees. Back-of-house technology provider Squadle explored What Makes In-N-Out Burger the Best Place to Work and revealed that employees describe the company as “taking excellent care” of them. While this certainly extends to salaries (which we’ll delve into shortly), it also means “offering employees the kind of flexibility they need to do things like go to school [and] take care of their children.” Squadle rightly points out that this flexibility distinguishes In-N-Out from other fast food brands and creates ongoing loyalty among employees. The company’s leadership treats even entry-level employees with familial care, and the results are low turnover and exceptional customer service.

In-N-Out’s Employee Experience

Time’s MONEY magazine’s 2017 Best Companies for Work-Life Balance features In-N-Out Burger at number 3, the highest slot achieved by any food and beverage brand. They note that the company “offers paid vacation for both part- and full-time staffers” and “also reportedly rewards managers who meet their annual goals with all-expenses paid trips.” It’s no surprise, then, that “the chain has one of the lowest management turnover rates in the industry.”

It’s impossible to ignore salary when discussing employee experience. After all, no one works for free. When it comes to getting paid, In-N-Out tops the list yet again. At a time when many fast-food industry workers are striking and organizing in support of higher minimum wages, entry-level food preparation workers at In-N-Out Burger are making nearly $13/hour on average, which job site Indeed reports is 28% higher than the average nationwide.

Here’s the really big news: managers at In-N-Out Burger locations make an average of $160,000 each year. As MailChimp reveals, that’s much higher than the average salary of most lawyers, architects, and software engineers in California, where the chain is based. It’s also roughly triple the industry average. This isn’t charity, MailChimp says, “a loyal workforce means increased productivity, less employee turnover, and in the long run larger profits.” It also means there’s a huge incentive for managers to provide quality customer service.

Career development is another area in which In-N-Out sets a shining example. Squadle notes that “Because In-N-Out recognizes the value of loyal employees, they offer ongoing training programs and all of their managers are developed and promoted from the hourly associate level. This encourages workers to stick with the company over the long haul” and invest more fully in their work than most fast food workers.

Oh, and did we mention that employees get free burgers and fries, too?

Brand-Building Through Employee Experience

It should be no surprise by now that In-N-Out Burger ranks number 4 on job site Glassdoor’s ranking of the Best Places to Work in 2018. That’s higher than innovative companies such as Google, LinkedIn, and SpaceX, which are known for their employee perks. And while In-N-Out’s family ethos includes treating employees well, there’s a strong business case to be made in the correlation between employee happiness and overall brand health and success.

For service-based businesses such as those in the food and beverage market, customer experience depends largely on interactions with employees. Happy, well-paid employees who see a future for themselves at their workplace are the most likely to provide exceptional customer service. They act as front-line brand ambassadors and, simply by greeting customers with a genuine smile, build their brand and create a positive customer experience.

By investing in the employee experience, In-N-Out Burger puts a smile on their faces and ours.

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