In-N-Out book gives an inside, top-down and ground-up history of the burger chain

In-n-Out Burger in Baldwin Park, California. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

In-N-Out Burger, known for its Double-Doubles and fries, is approaching its 75th anniversary. (Fielding Buck/The Press-Enterprise/TNS)

In-N-Out Burger will reach its 75th anniversary on Oct. 22 with its history written by the ultimate insider.

Lynsi Snyder is the owner and president of the fast food chain and the heir of its founders, Harry and Esther Snyder, after the deaths of their two sons, Guy and Rich.


Her book, “The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger,” traces all their lives, what they gave to In-N-Out Burger and what In-N-Out Burger gave to them.

It will be published Tuesday, Oct. 17, five days before her company celebrates its 75th anniversary with a 12-hour festival at the In-N-Out Pomona Dragstrip.

Snyder, 41, was born in 1982, six years after Harry’s death. She inherited the company at Esther’s death in 2006, when she was 24.

She knew her grandmother but was born nearly six years after her grandfather’s death in 1976. Harry and Esther’s two sons died young. Her uncle Rich led the company until his death in a plane crash in 1993. Her father Guy took over with Esther until he died in 1999, when she was 17.

Although Snyder was young, she was immersed in the company all her life, according to her book, and writes she had “apprenticed in almost every In-N-Out department.”

Still, writing the book was a learning experience for her.

“There are honestly things about my grandparents that I learned in this process, and that was really neat. We interviewed several people to get the story right, because I clearly wasn’t around from ‘48 until all the way to ‘82,” she said in a phone interview.

Sadness and success

Getting the story right is important to Snyder, who researched it with the help of longtime In-N-Out employees and company records.

She described the book, a two-year project, as a way to set the record straight about the company and the Snyder family.

“It was very upsetting to read some things that were not accurate, not true. They just had the story wrong. It’s a family, you know. It’s a family. It’s a legacy. I’ve had the desire since the first thing I read that was wrong. It was just a matter of when. We just thought, wow, it would be pretty neat to do it in and release it in the 75th year.”

Themes that run through the book include In-N-Out’s commitment to quality, Christian faith and the importance of family.

Chapter One begins with a Bible verse, Proverbs 3:5-6, which begins, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” which she described as “personal to me” in the interview.

In the chapter, Snyder then describes what it was like to race on the Pomona Dragstrip on March 30 of this year and how it made her feel close to her father Guy, who was a racing fan. Her grandfather Harry was part-owner of the Irwindale Raceway.

“I know a lot of people know about the In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip now,” Snyder said in the interview. “Some of them may not realize we’ve been tied to racing before.”

The book flashes back to Harry and Esther’s impoverished childhoods, service during World War II and how those experiences led to them opening the first In-N-Out drive-thru on Oct. 22, 1948 in Baldwin Park. Customers originally drove up to a small booth and gave their orders directly to the cook. After a few months of awkward communication, Harry built his own two-way speaker system to allow customers to place their orders a few cars in advance. The innovation changed the fast food world, and the Snyders’ hard work set the chain on a path of steady growth.

The book addresses tough subjects. In Chapter Four, “Redemption, she writes about a cycle of abuse in Harry Snyder’s family and how it led to the In-N-Out Foundation to combat child abuse. She also writes about the death of her uncle and her father’s substance abuse.

Writing the book gave Snyder a better understanding of Harry’s struggles, she said.

“I knew that there were some sad pieces to the story, that my grandpa was abused but then learning that his dad was really struggling. I know he was abused as well. It was pretty sad. And it’s also just a huge success story, because I think that his dad didn’t think that he would amount to much. And he made his dream come true, and obviously his success has gone beyond his life.”

The book’s narrative is broken up by fun facts for fans of the brand. Among them:

— Onions: Snyder shares what kind In-N-Out Uses, Bermuda, and the many ways customers can order them.

— Palm trees: In-N-Out’s signature landscaping element are 20-foot Mexican fan palms that are planted to cross each other, as in the 1963 movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

— Spread: The condiment used on burgers, similar to Thousand Island dressing, dates from 1948 and was mixed by Harry in a barrel using a wooden ax handle. It’s never called sauce.

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