Thursday, 10 December 2009

The In'N'Out campaign



It's no mystery I suppose that neither Byron, nor Haché, nor Hawksmoor really "get" the genuine American burger. I don't doubt the effort they put into their respective creations - in fact from long chats with both the guys at Byron and Hawksmoor it seems effort and attention to detail is not the issue here. The problem is the whole approach to the concept - this desire to create a "perfect" burger, using the finest ingredients money can buy, and serving it in a swanky designer room with silver cutlery and frosted glasses. If there's one thing I learned about burgers from my various trips to the US it's that, ironically, the best burgers are not perfect. Burgers are a cheap snack, calorific, day-glo, greasy, sweet and salty. They are unashamedly, unmistakeably junk food, and they are all the more delicious for it. Use more expensive cuts of meat, artisan cheese, ciabatta bread and organic tomatoes and what you end up with may very well be more acceptable to the ladies who lunch of Bond Street but you're getting further and further away from what made this classic creation so wonderful in the first place.

I haven't - completely - given up on someone, eventually, getting it right at this side of the pond but given that a few of us burger obsessives spent a whole evening attempting to convince just Byron to use seeded brioche buns, even going so far as to bring some we'd snagged from Burger King just up the road, and they still insist on using floury baps, I can't see change happening any time soon. So what they need - what we all need - is an incentive. And what could be a greater incentive for the burgermeisters of London to up their game than for America's greatest burger chain to open a branch in this city? Show them how it's done, In'N'Out.

I won't go on again about how good In'N'Out are - read my San Diego roundup if you need a reminder - but briefly, the fact they can serve such thoroughly accomplished burgers for $1.99 is little short of a miracle. Now obviously, if In'N'Out were to open a branch in London, that price point may be an issue, but at £1.99 or even £2.99 you'll still be putting the fear of God not only into the gourmet gang but clearly also into Burger King and McDonalds too.


So the campaign starts here. First thing you can do is click here to send a message to the lovely guys at In'N'Out, who will (based on experience) email you almost immediately back with something along the lines of:

Although we are unable to confirm a site in London at this time, In-N-Out Burger® plans on expanding as far as we can, and particularly into areas in which our customers have expressed interest. As such, we are happy to let our Real Estate Department know that you would like us to open an In-N-Out Burger® location in your area.

But with enough people petitioning we can at the very least alert the powers that be to a genuine grass-roots desire to see In'N'Out ply their trade in the UK, and who knows, in a few years time you may be picking up your Double Double from In'N'Out Soho or In'N'Out Waterloo. And wouldn't that be bloody brilliant.

42 comments:

catty said...

I completely agree with you - about a number of things! 1) American burgers are just better. simple. 2) Try too hard (eg GBK and it just isn't a burger anymore) and 3) In'n'Out can charge £2.99, heck even £3.99 and I'm still there :)

imma email them now!

Helen said...

YES YES YES!!! I will of course be wholeheartedly supporting this campaign. You have to try yianni's burgersnow he's back in London. Let's make a trip to see him - I'd love to know what you think.

Tiki Chris said...

YES! Great burgers, great company, great Americana! Besides, they'd make a fortune with a location in, say, Soho or around Covent Garden or anywhere really.

Alex said...

As a Californian living in the UK, I'm really torn on this subject. I agree, it's VERY hard to get a good burger in London. Byron do good work but it's border-line fine dining. Truth be told, if I'm hankering for a proper, flame-grilled, greasy-as-f**k, but oh-so-satisfying burger...I got to the BK Lounge in Charing Cross.

But while I think it would be great to have access to a Double Double from time to time, I worry that it just wouldn't translate. For two reasons. One, I think there's something about being in California (and possibly NV, UT, AZ) that adds to the whole In N Out experience. The weather, the vibe etc.
Two, I worry that it would quickly morp into a Byron because that's what the market wants. "Ok a double double sir, coming right up....and would you like some fennel and mange tout on that? Perhaps some gruyere?"

Not on my watch, friend, not on my watch.

Chris said...

Thanks everyone for your support :)

Alex: I understand completely what you mean, but the reason I chose In'N'Out is because they're already a huge and very sucessful chain and they of all people will have the experience and focus to open a proper, un-watered-down, branch in London. I trust them not to "posh up" and not to dumb down.

Simon said...

A noble cause and one I can put my weight behind, but the fact they can't make it across to the East Coast, let alone an ocean, doesn't fill me with hope.

But we must try!

I've almost respected them for their unwillingness to over-franchise and be *everywhere*, like krispy kreme have done in the last five years.

Aromy said...

I would love love love to have an In'N'Out in London! It'd be like a dream come true! Milk shakes and animal style fries are my fave!

Nick said...

You didn't animal-style your fries - schoolboy error.

Unfortunately I will echo Simon's sentiments that they seem almost religious (see what I did there) about not really expanding beyond the West Coast.

Nevertheless a London In-n-out would be a dream come true, no matter what the weather.

Caroline said...

I agree with Alex. I am amazed they never made it to the east coast but actually I'm glad they haven't. It just wouldn't be the same without the West Coast 'vibe' and I would hate to not be able to take visitors to In n Out for the first time and experience the joy at their first burger there. So many places loose their charm when they expand and become less 'special'

Simon said...

East coast has, erm, Dunkin. And Fuddruckers!

Anyway, let's not forget White Castle and it's amazing sliders that are confined to random parts of the Midwest.

Will from The Hawksmoor said...

So Chrissy-boy, here's the thing. Having just done a massive burger tour I know a bit about the burger and I half agree with you. I think there are two approaches to the burger - the first is down 'n' dirty - its a cheap junk food where the key is not ingredients, its ratio of burger to cheese to pickle to bun to sauce. Taking NYC as an example (because to do so in London would be too close to home) Shake Shack and Burger Joint do it well.

The other way is to say a burger can really be anything you want it to be and try and do it as well as humanly possible. For me I like my meat to taste like really good meat - I want that flavour in a burger, and if you're going to do that you have to upgrade everything. Again using NYC Minetta Tavern do a Black Label burger which is fricking awesome, and only comes with onions and a bun.

We take the second approach, you favour the former, but in my world there's enough room for everyone.

up_shiraz said...

I've sent in my vote for London...and for Sydney for that matter. Got some of that Californinan vibe I reckon. The fact that I'm moving there is only coincidental.

Lizzie said...

I'm not sure how happy In-N-Out will be about receiving such a deluge of emails, but I've added my tuppence. Might be worth specifying London, U.K in case they think we're talking about Boston..!

mathildescuisine said...

You can do it, you can do it! We believe in you!!

Chris said...

Nick: We did, however, animal-style our cheeseburger (which you should be able to see if you look closely at the picture).

Caroline: I know what you mean, but it doesn't mean I wouldn't jump for joy if one opened over here. I'm sure they could do it.

Will: OK point taken. There's nothing *wrong* with a gourmet burger, and of course your own effort is one of the very best of its kind, but a £15 burger is a special occasion - it's a sit-down meal with wine pairing. Where are the takeaway joints doing £1.99 cheeseburgers using basic fresh ingredients? I want to be able to have a lovely juicy Double Double and root beer and have change from a fiver. I want my animal fries!

Krista said...

done! great idea!

Krista said...

P.S. My favorite burger in America is CJ's Pub in South Bend, Indiana. If you're ever in Chicago, it's about a 90 minute drive east from Chicago.

Anonymous said...

Yes please!

Ollie said...

Have thrown my hat in the ring. Top idea. Agree with Will, though - there's got to be space for both, and truth be told I'd probably rather have the 'gourmet' one, though not necessarily all the time.

About Greedy Diva said...

I'm in! If you could move on to getting Shake Shack here next, that would be great.

Chris said...

Alex: What and where is the BK Lounge? I've tried Googling it but I'm getting nowhere!

perfectlyvague said...

You know that the reason In'N'Outs never travelled is because they need to be within driving distance of where the meat is processed so that it is never frozen? We aren't going to be getting one in the UK any time soon.

Gastro1 said...

Great initiative Chris.

However I don't think In N Out are operating in the same market segment as Byron , Hache or Hawksmoor.

They would certainly be top dog at the bottom end of the market that's for sure.

Chz said...

I've done it, and it's a lovely idea.

But it will never happen. If they can't be arsed to open a store on the US east coast or Canada, there's no flippin' way in hell we'll get one here.

tim_g said...

i hear where will from the hawksmoor is coming from, but like you said chris - at the moment we dont have the choice btwn the two types! everyone's trying to make 'gourmet' burgers and no ones trying to make in'n'out/shake shack/burger joint american fast food style burgers. why not?!?!? this is a conversation my friend + i have constantly

Su-Lin said...

This is going to be one tough campaign...as Chz says, they haven't even conquered all of America yet. Might try something closer...shake shack?

Caroline said...

I agree with Will, there's room in the world for both ends of the burger market. The best burgers I have ever had in my life were at a nice brasserie in Paris and at Le Tub in Florida, both pretty high end but I suppose I equally love a 1.99 animal style patty.

Anonymous said...

Will never happen. Why?

In-N-Out refuses to freeze meat. All deliveries must be made daily by a company-owned processing plant that, obviously, must be in the area. If the company can't financially justify opening the plant, no expansion. This goes some ways to explaining why they have not expanded beyond the West Coast. Sound quality control from a family-owned business.

On the other hand, have you ever seen the bible reference that is printed on the inside bottom rim of every In-N-Out beverage cup? Perhaps regional provinciality for this chain is not the worst thing. And I'm a huge fan.

Chris said...

perfectlyvague, Anonymous: Thanks for the extra info, depressing though the conclusion is. And yes, perhaps if they ever opened in London we may be able to persuade them to replace the cup mottos with something more secular. "There's probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your burger" perhaps?

shayma said...

hey hey hey, you have smthg agst us ladies who lunch? ;-)
great write-up. agreed, i dont like fancy burgers at all. cant believe this is $1.99. you must have heard of Five Guys- of Obama fame- it is close to my parents' place in Washington Dc, and i simply adore it. but it is still less than Five Guys' price point.

this really is a great initiative on your part, i agree with Dino. x

Tina said...

Although I would love for you Londoners to have an In 'N' Out, I would like it if they can come out to the East Coast first, preferably Boston, MA.

Robecca said...

5 Guys is very good. They've got a couple of locations here in New York and they're definitely expanding. Anyone visiting the city is spoiled for choice, really.

I work across the street from Shake Shack and I can only be bothered to brave the line once or twice a year. Also, I'm convinced they fry their burgers and fried in butter. That deep fried Shitake mushroom "burger" filled with molten Muenster cheese is insane, though.

Robecca said...

Shake Shack is expanding in 2010. Maybe a refocused campaign would yeild results?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/dining/16Shake.html?ref=dining

Caroline said...

I've never rated shake shack, I think it's way over hyped but there probably aren't any other decent places in the same vein and it's nice to sit in the park isn't it?

Helen T said...

I've always managed to miss out on the experience when I've been in the US, so I think it's time they turned up here. For now, I will stick to my once a year blow out at the OK Diner (has to be the one near Stamford, full on alu clad US diner style). And very rarely, and usually very pissed, a crossing of the BK threshold.

green drawers said...

Apart from perfectlyvague no-one has really touched on the real reason that US burgers are so very different from ours. It's simple really when you think about it, if you can be bothered to think that is. The answer is meat.

In US cheap meat is cheap for a reason - cattle are kept on unimaginably large 'ranches' (total misnomer) of concrete, penned in so they can't move about too much to keep their meat tender (let's not forget that flavour comes from use of muscle, which is why veal is so bland), and they are fed highly processed grain, not grass. Nothing about this process is natural to a cow. And hence nothing about the meat is entirely natural either. The meat is greasy because of the fat they put on very quickly eating the grain, and can't burn off because of the conditions.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention the growth hormones and industrial strength antibiotics that they are fed in the grain. Keeping all those cattle together means that if one gets ill, they all get ill so it's best to standard dose all of them. All of the time.

Fancy that $1.99 burger now??? Amazing how some people can become so passionate about food without really knowing anything about where it comes from. Or maybe they just don't care.

PS I am not adverse to the odd MacD or BK etc - but only here, where at least our farming conditions are more humane. And yes I have travelled in US.

theundergroundrestaurant said...

Do they do veggie burgers?

spiltwine said...

Chris great post!

No one has mentioned Ed's Easy Diner in Cambridge Circus...

That for me is the best US burger-alike (oh I'm from California)
Btw next time you're stateside at In'N'Out ask for animal style fries. In fact they have a list of codewords for different cooking options/condiments.

I have yet to visit Hawksmoor so cant comment on them BUT the London burger scene seem to be more meatloaf in taste and style. Big monstrosities with even bigger buns...

As for veggie burger RedVeg in Brighton is great! I think they might be a small chain, tastes like a real burger too.

-louis

Melanie said...

I second Shayma. Five Guys is excellent. They just opened one by my mom's in Michigan, and I had the pleasure of trying a most delicious burger and fries over Christmas. You simply must find one next time you're in the States.

Jasalarms said...

Can't wait to have my first in n out burger, only 8 months to go till I fly out to Vegas and get married!

Not sure what's goner be first, the wedding or the burger!!!

I'm sure in n out could set up a site in London, would def be a success!

Gurmej B said...

We need, sorry, demand an In-N-Out in Birmingham, the heart of England. We're ready for it Animal style.

Anonymous said...

Did you get anywhere with this?

I am on board for In and Out places in London. By far the best take-away burgers in the land!

I just got back from California and couldnt get enough of them!

let me know on tony@creative-shift.co.uk