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In-N-Out Burger: What to Expect as the Brand Moves East

by 
R.J. Hottovy
 on 
February 1, 2023
In-N-Out Burger: What to Expect as the Brand Moves East

In-N-Out Burger made our list of 5 Hot Restaurant Brands for 2023 and the chain hasn’t waited long to get sizzling in the new year. In-N-Out Burger recently announced that it plans to open stores in Tennessee by 2026 as well as an Eastern U.S. territory office in Franklin, TN just outside Nashville. We dove into the visitation data for the popular burger chain to take an in-depth look at the potential foot traffic implications of the planned expansion – on the brand, and on the broader quick-service restaurant category.

(In-N-)Out Doing the Competition

Despite having just under 400 company-owned locations across California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Oregon, and Colorado, In-N-Out has long already made a name for itself with its impressive average unit volumes (AUVs) of between $3M and $4M. From an average visits per location standpoint, In-N-Out Burger led the industry in 2022, posting more than four times the average visits per location of other leading QSR and fast-casual brands.

Moving (In-N-)Out East

Over the past decade-plus, In-N-Out has started to move away from its home state of California – where it has almost 270 locations – with generally encouraging results. 

It’s not uncommon for chains to see a bit of a drop-off in average visits per location as they move away from their home markets and compete against other brands – something we saw with Portillo’s when they first expanded beyond the Chicago market. In-N-Out’s results from Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio are roughly on par with other brands we’ve analyzed in the past, even factoring in increased competition in these markets from Whataburger – one of our 10 Top Retail Brands to Watch in 2023

In-N-Out entered Dallas in 2011, Austin in 2013, and San Antonio in 2014, and while visits per location in these markets have lagged behind the chain’s legacy locations in California, they still remain well ahead of nationwide QSR averages – as do all of In-N-Out’s markets. However, looking at In-N-Out’s most nascent markets, we see that visits per location trends have improved, with Houston (which it entered in 2019) on par with In-N-Out’s California locations, and Denver (which it entered in 2020) running well ahead of chain averages.

Burger Breakdown

The success of these newer markets suggests that In-N-Out’s cult status may be growing, and that the chain is set for big numbers as it arrives in Tennessee and other adjacent states. Of course, chains run the risk of diluting their brand when they enter a new territory, but it's likely that In-N-Out will strike a balance between building enough locations in a market to gain scale efficiencies without diminishing the brand by over-expanding. The chain’s Dallas expansion is a good example of scaling prudently, as it’s taken the chain roughly a decade to reach almost 25 locations in that market. 

For updates and more QSR foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.

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