Chris Matyszczyk is the owner of Howard Raucous LLC, a consulting firm, and also pens the “Absurdly Driven” column for Inc.com. His broad experience includes serving as an advertising and marketing consultant to both corporations and individuals, and he’s no slouch when it comes to branding, as you can see from this recent column.
“They say In-N-Out has a cult following. What they really mean is that a lot of people find it’s better than so many of its competitors.
Why, the burger chain hasn’t tried to expand everywhere, principally because it’s fond of the fresh thing, rather the frozen thing. On Monday, however, cultists in Texas were out of luck.
They were stunned to find that all 37 In-N-Out restaurants in the state were closed. Had there been an outbreak of animal-style salmonella? Had the company suddenly chosen to use the same distribution company as KFC’s UK arm and discovered that it couldn't deliver the meat?
No and no.
Instead, it offered this, um, cult-leaderish statement from executive vice president Bob Lang Jr.:
‘At In-N-Out Burgers, we have always served the highest quality food with no compromise. We recently discovered that our buns in Texas do not meet the quality standards that we demand. There was and are no food safety concerns. We decided to close all of our Texas stores until we are confident that we can serve our normal high quality bun.’
Wait, was it the consistency? The shape? The size? The color? Couldn’t they have borrowed some from IHOP? They’re actually quite good.
The burger chain isn’t biting on questions. Lang Jr. did add, however:
‘A new shipment of buns is on the way and we expect to reopen within the next 24 hours. We apologize for any inconvenience this closure may cause for our customers.’
If you’re a brand that depends on a certain quality, your customers will notice if you give them something even slightly shoddy. Some might take that risk. They might risk, for example, their ice cream machines to be often out of action.
It seems that In-N-Out didn’t feel like taking that chance.
Isn’t it more likely, indeed, that In-N-Out’s customers will respect it more, when they finally get what they always expect? Or will they suddenly suspect that something more was amiss than the company is letting on? When you have sufficient brand equity, it’s more likely your judgment will be trusted.
Just like your burgers are."