by Katie Julius
From the crossed palm trees out front to the fresh ingredients and Bible verses printed on the food packaging, nothing is more iconic to California cuisine than In-N-Out.
In-N-Out first opened in 1948 in Baldwin Park, CA, by Harry & Esther Snyder with restaurants popping up all over Southern California (and later Northern California) in the years that followed. Being a Southern California native, In-N-Out has been a staple first meal when returning home from a trip. It wasn’t until 1990 when the first out-of-state location opened in 1990 in Las Vegas, NV and it was another 10 years before additional locations outside of California were established. In-N-Out has now expanded to over 300 restaurants in six states (Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Oregon, and Texas) with future plans for Colorado locations.
While the original In-N-Out building no longer exists (it was moved due to freeway construction and later demolished), you can visit a replica if you’re in the area. It is not an active restaurant, but you can set up a tour of your local In-N-Out restaurant – and it’s free!
The tour begins before the restaurant opens with each child receiving a signature In-N-Out hat and nametag and the restaurant staff taking the kids’ lunch orders. We learned a little about the history of In-N-Out and how they are able to get so many diners through their drive-thru every hour before heading into the kitchen (be sure to wear close-toed shoes or you’ll be waiting in the dining room during the tour).
The kitchen area tour includes a look at the refrigerator and pantry where they store all their fresh ingredients as well as the prep and cooking areas. We squeezed into the drive-thru service area as they explained to us how they have to work in such tight quarters to give their customers the best service! The highlight of the tour was, of course, the french fry station where they showed us how they cut and wash the potatoes to make their signature fresh-cut fries.
Once the tour was over, it was time to eat! The kids could order a hamburger, cheese burger, or grilled cheese that came with french fries and a fountain drink. When each child’s order was ready, they placed their meal on a tray and then called each child’s name over the loudspeaker. The kids loved that special touch as they walked from their table to pick up their lunch. While the kids ate, the employees also passed out little sticker activity sheets.
Parents and younger siblings were able to order food on their own once the restaurant opened (right as our tour was ended and they were getting the kids’ orders out).
The program is excellent and I recommend going at least once at least once (or twice!) during your homeschool experience. Our group had kids as young as five up through high school (what high schooler would pass up free In-N-Out?), so it’s great for school kids of all ages!
In-N-Out tours are typically available to groups in the morning. Students must be 5 years old to participate. Contact your local restaurant for details and to schedule a tour (it can vary based on the region).