When it comes to the history of California, there’s an abundance of stories to tell. Among them is the rise of fast food, a cultural phenomenon that has transcended borders. Interestingly, the concept of fast food, specifically the drive-thru, found its roots in Southern California. And at the forefront of this movement was In-N-Out Burger, the very first restaurant to introduce the drive-thru concept. Although fast food history may not be considered “important” by some, its impact on society cannot be denied.
In 1948, Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out Burger in Baldwin Park. This unassuming establishment would go on to revolutionize the fast food industry with two groundbreaking innovations: the drive-thru and the two-way speaker system. Prior to In-N-Out, most burger joints were either walk-ups or drive-ins, where carhops would handle both the order taking and food delivery.
Harry and his wife, Esther, ran the business as a family affair. Harry personally sourced fresh ingredients every morning, visiting local butchers and vegetable markets. Today, In-N-Out maintains strict control over its ingredients, with processing facilities located in close proximity to each restaurant. As Harry cooked and served burgers and fries from his charming ten-foot by ten-foot stand, Esther managed the bookkeeping.
Within three years, the popularity of In-N-Out led to the opening of a second location. However, their original stand faced an unfortunate fate when Interstate 10 construction began in 1957. Determined to carry on, the Snyders moved their operations a few feet away and built a slightly larger establishment. By the following year, they had expanded to five locations.
Inspired by the film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” Harry started planting crossed palm trees at In-N-Out locations in 1972, marking each restaurant as a treasure. This small gesture added a touch of whimsy to the brand. In the same vein, In-N-Out introduced their famous annual t-shirts a few years later, further solidifying their unique identity. Unlike many other fast food chains in Southern California, In-N-Out chose not to franchise, opting for slow and steady growth instead.
Sadly, Harry Snyder passed away on December 14, 1976, leaving the now legendary In-N-Out in the capable hands of his sons. Today, In-N-Out boasts over 350 locations across seven states, all under the watchful eye of Harry and Esther’s granddaughter.
Recognizing their beloved status among people far and wide, In-N-Out decided to pay homage to their history in 2014 by constructing a replica of their original restaurant. Just a stone’s throw away from where the first In-N-Out stood, this replica offers visitors a chance to experience the drive-thru that changed fast food forever. Although it no longer serves food, the replica allows guests to take a tour of the interior, complete with vintage equipment. For a complete In-N-Out experience, patrons can grab their burgers and fries from the nearby modern In-N-Out and enjoy them at the picnic tables outside the replica.
Adjacent to the operational In-N-Out location is the In-N-Out Company Store and University. The University serves as a training facility for new associates and is built on the site of the Snyder family home. The Company Store offers iconic merchandise, including their famous t-shirts, alongside other delightful goodies.
To visit the replica of the first In-N-Out, head to 13752 Francisquito Avenue in Baldwin Park. As of our most recent information, the replica is open from Thursday to Sunday, between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. However, please note that the Company Store is closed on Sundays.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit another iconic establishment in the area, The Donut Hole. Indulge your sweet tooth and experience yet another slice of Californian culture.
Outfit: Unfortunately, I cannot recall the details of my outfit on that particular day. Rest assured, it was a fabulous ensemble perfectly suited for the occasion. And of course, my In-N-Out Charm Bracelet, crafted by yours truly from an In-N-Out keychain, completed the look.
- “History” In-N-Out.
- Geary, George. Made in California: The California-Born Burger Joints, Diners, Fast Food & Restaurants that Changed America. Prospect Park Books, 2021.
- Luna, Nancy. “In-N-Out building 1948 replica drive-through.” The OC Register, 5 June 2013.
- Luna, Nancy. “SoCal institution In-N-Out opens replica 1948 burger stand.” The OC Register, 27 March 2014.