After decades of only slinging its burgers west of the Mississippi, California chain In-N-Out has announced plans for an eastward expansion. According to Restaurant Business, the chain will open its first “territory office” in the eastern United States in Tennessee in the coming months, with plans for In-N-Out’s first locations to arrive in the state starting in 2026.
It’s a major move for In-N-Out, which has long vowed that it would only expand to states where it could offer the same quality of burgers and fries that it has served in California since 1948. Ensuring that quality involves opening distribution centers and other logistical facilities necessary to support the chain’s operation. When it expanded to Texas in 2011, In-N-Out said that it was only able to do so after building a dedicated facility to produce its beef patties.
The decision to open a Franklin, Tennessee territory office, which will oversee the chain’s eastward expansion, is especially surprising considering that, in 2018, In-N-Out CEO Lynsi Snyder, the granddaughter of founder Harry Snyder, told Forbes that the chain would not expand east of Texas as long as she was alive. “I like that we’re sought after when someone’s coming into town. I like that we’re unique,” Snyder said at the time. “That we’re not on every corner. You put us in every state and it takes away some of its luster.”
Now, though, Snyder’s tune has changed, and plans are in the works to transport burgers from the Texas production facility in to Tennessee. That route opens up a whole new slate of states in which In-N-Out could reasonably sling its double-doubles, though plans for future East Coast growth have not yet been announced.
Snyder has long viewed herself as a “guardian” of In-N-Out’s legacy, yet In-N-Out has been in expansion mode over the past decade, continuing to grow and open new restaurants throughout the pandemic. The chain currently operates nearly 400 restaurants in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Texas, and Oregon, and is currently in the process of opening multiple locations in Idaho.
Much of Snyder’s reasoning for keeping In-N-Out on the West Coast has been related to keeping it connected with its California roots. Few cultural icons are more associated with the state than In-N-Out, and only time will tell whether or not this national expansion will have an impact on its reputation as a burger destination. What is certain, though, is that plenty of West Coast expats living in Tennessee or within driving distance are already awaiting the day when they can get their hands on one of those paper baskets of animal-style fries.