In-N-Out Burgers  (West Coast) √√√√


IN-N-OUT
RIGHT ON

In-N-Out Burger has resisted franchising its operations or going public; one reason is the prospect of quality or customer consistency being compromised by excessively rapid business growth   The company’s business practices have been noted for employee-centered personnel policies. 

For example, In-N-Out is one of the few fast food chains in the United States to pay its employees more than state and federally mandated minimum wage guidelines – starting at $9.25 per hour in California, as of August 2001. The In-N-Out restaurant chain has developed a highly loyal customer base, and has been rated as one of the top fast food restaurants in several customer satisfaction surveys.  We do not have an In-N-Out Burger joint in Tampa Bay, FL.  Even though some talk existed, including a fake sign, and a few people had fun by announcing one is coming, so far most they were just rumors.  For the rest of this piece, I’ll use “INO” which is easier to type and wish they would come here.

Last year I started writing Burgers Wars on my Tampa food blog and we got into all kinds of discussions and comments from many about INO , so when we went to Vegas for a short week long vacation we saw our first INO, we made a point to visit it.  

Actually a quick right turn from the left lane.  Sort of passing on a Nascar road course, at that point I felt normal driving, and exciting in Vegas where lane changing is an art form, and heavily practiced.  Flying into the parking lot, with a whole lot of horns blaring, my nose told me this was going to be good.

The major point in my Burger Wars was the competition of INO and Five Guys nationally as they both rose to the tops of other major lists.  The problem was opinions came regionally. Nationally it was almost a tie, INO inching ahead by those on the West Coast,  and it was inches, they are both similar operations.

Their mantra - Our commitment to quality starts with our hamburgers. And our burgers begin with our patties. We make them from fresh, 100% pure beef. They are free of additives, fillers and preservatives of any kind. But the focus on quality starts well before we deliver our hamburger patties to our stores. We own and operate our own patty-making facilities in Baldwin Park, California; Lathrop, California and Dallas, Texas. Since we only serve burgers, fries and drinks, making a high-quality hamburger patty is everything to us.

We have always made every one of our hamburger patties ourselves using only whole chucks from premium cattle selected especially for In-N-Out Burger. We pay a premium to purchase fresh, high-quality beef chucks. 

We individually inspect every single chuck we receive to make sure that it meets our standards. Then our highly skilled, in-house butchers remove the bones. We grind the meat ourselves and make it into patties ourselves. 

These steps enable us to completely control the patty-making process and be absolutely certain of the quality and freshness of every patty we make. We’ve always made our hamburger patties this way.


VARIETY IN THE BAY
In Tampa Bay, FL, fats (fast) food is a mainstay of survival and we have an abundance of places to find a cow that visited the grinder.  To be fair, I divided them into three categories. Fast, really fast, like McDonalds who is reinventing their packaging rather than making better food, Burger King, Carls , DQ etc. Then some have stepped up a notch like Wendy’s who is redoing their menu, then Five Guys and their main competitor INO. 

And the third category, are the bigger restaurants like the RED Robin, Chillies,Applebees, and the newest in Florida CULVER’S with higher end sit down establishments, varied menus,  but thats another day.

Nationally, the gurus of ground beef pitted INO against Five Guys because these are specifically burger barns and don't drift far from the front or rear of the cow.  Five guys does offer hotdogs. The INO burger is two 1/8 pre-cooked in weight patties.

Both are done in bright red and white trim, good convenient locations and usually busy. At lunch and dinner very busy. Here is what I do like and why they are better for you and offer more than the low end "fast food places".

  • THE FOOD IS COOKED TO ORDER QUICKLY
  • THE FOOD WAS FRESH TASTING NOT DRIED OUT
  • THE FRIES AND BURGERS WERE HOT
  • AND YOU GET WHAT YOU ORDERED, THE WAY YOU ORDERED IT.

NOTE: I am a critic, but I do not complain till it goes in writing, and can tell you 60 % of the fast food I ordered in my area (Tampa Bay) was not hot, or nuked to destruction, dried out, and disappointing.   Thats a management process problem.  Fire the manager for not training right, fire the DM for pushing numbers from the manager, fire the corporate geeks of never tasting the crap they serve.

I-N-O WAS DIFFERENT
We liked the place and would go back again when they open in Tampa Bay. I had my chance to compare INO and FIVE GUYS and realistically have to declare it a tie based on food. INO was quieter, more noise at FG, both were simply designed or “ ttired", in white and red tiles and paint, clean and production efficient, and definitely ahead of the faster food places in quality. Everything was daily out in the open and clean.  The burgers were simply more appetizing and weight wise.  I think Five Guys had the edge simply because they are local and I only had INO once. Either is better than the Clown, the King and the Girlie.

PEPPER WARS AT IN-N-OUT BURGER
CAUTION - PAY ATTENTION - I DIDN’T
Next to the napkins there were two small trays of peppers, I love peppers, all peppers, Jalapena’s to Habanero, and I rarely cook anything without some kind of pepper, they are the universal condiment of the world grown in all countries and they come in different flavors and strengths.  

And maybe these served at the store in Vegas may be localized to Vegas or California or one specific vendor, because of TEX- MEX influence and demographics and hotter peppers are more popular in the SouthWest.   I like to cook internationally, favoring the unique flavors and spices  of Thai, Indian, Middle east and Japanese dishes and fairly familiar with most peppers on this planet.   

The guy next to us was munching on them like peanuts, so I thought they were just like Italian Finger peppers, or Chicago Hot Dog peppers, they must be OK.   I bit into one and an hour later I was still on fire.  It took a Pepto Bismol and a Tums tablet dissolving on my tongue to put the fire out.  

Holy Sh.t!  These were most volatile anything I ever tasted. The company named them “Hot Chili Peppers”.  They were not joking.  They are offered as takeouts (see photo) at some stores. The I-N-O net referred to them as Banana Peppers.   The web contains a whole page on searches by customers to find them, what and where to find these peppers including some statements from I-N-O.  And they are not like Banana Peppers. But the Pepper industry is unique, mainly because of demand and the fact they are hardy and mutate easily.   


PEPPER BREEDING BUSINESS 
A unique part of home bred cooking is the extent some Pepper purist will go to reach the ultimate top of the game.  Breeding and developing peppers might one day become an olympic sport.  Which is not unusual in the Pepper Cross Breeding business where the ultimate thrill is to eat a pepper and watch your  (or your friends)  stomach explode sprouting fire as you head for the head100 yards away.  Ghost peppers, the Carolina Reaper and the Trinidad Moruga Scorpions were bred to be hot and they are  forcing the Scoville charts to rethink the top end.  

Now the company when asked explained that California is experiencing a shortage in yellow banana pepper crops, citing that this year's demand exceeded the supply. She also said that it’s affecting multiple locations, however, the next harvest is expected to come in early summer.  The company would not disclose the supplier of these peppers.  To me that is a flag.   Also they may change brands and types to meet regional needs but I am an investigative reporter and I smell stores when it comes to food.  

Calls to In-N-Out’s Southern California-based corporate headquarters to inquire about the shortage. It’s referred to the current situation as, “An industry-wide pepper shortage.” The "shortage" is not yet affecting the chopped chilies that can be added to fries or burgers, but if you want a side-order of whole yellow banana peppers, that's when the pepper rationing gets real.

A memo from In-N-Out, dated for May 9 and addressed to its California stores, was posted on Twitter May 15. The memo directs In-N-Out employees to keep, “ Chilies away from ketchup stations,” and to serve guests only two chilies in a "Soufflé cup per request."

As explained in a report by Munchies, a shortage of the small, yellow pickled peppers -- Cascabella peppers -- due to a combination of factors that have affected crops, like bad weather and soil conditions.  These are the Casabella which translates as.  And you can buy seeds now, plants are unavailable as of July but with seeds grow your own.   see Chileplants.com

SUBSTITUTE
This is a hot topic (un) and I think those Peppers could be substituted and are very are close to the Udupi Indian peppers in size and color and have nothing to do with Banana Peppers.   I think they may consider importing from India so they won’t run out.  They are also called Canthari Chili’s,  also known as “ White Bird Pepper” and this variety is popular in Kerala and in Sri Lanka.  

Small yellow white variety of chili grown in Udupi district, India, often used in chutneys and pickles” just like the Casabella’s and recently planted in the US, seeds are available for do it yourself on eBay.  India is the world's biggest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers. Guntur in the South Indian State of Andhra Pradesh produces 30% of all the chilies produced in India. Andhra Pradesh as a whole contributes 75% of India's chili exports.


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