A Generation Defined — California’s First Drive-In Opens

On October 22, 1948, newlyweds Harry and Esther Snyder opened the first In-N-Out burger stand. Demolished during construction of the Interstate 10 freeway, the stand was California’s first drive-thru restaurant.

The Baldwin Park site at Garvey and Francisquito — across the street from Harry Snyder’s childhood home — was barely 10 feet square.

The Original In-N-Out

The Original In-N-Out

McDonalds and Carl’s Jr., founded in 1948 and 1946 respectively, are contemporaries of the Snyders. But they were drive-ins.

The Snyders pioneered the use of a two-way intercom system allowing drivers to place orders without leaving their car. Like McDonald’s and Carl’s, they kept the menu simple — burgers, fries, drinks, dogs.

In 1950, a second In-N-Out was opened. Insistence by the Snyders on quality and fresh ingredients contributed to the company’s slow growth. When Harry Snyder died of lung cancer in 1976, there were only 18 In-N-Out restaurants.

Son Rich, 24, took over, building the chain into 83 restaurants by December 1993 when he was killed in a plane crash. Rich’s brother, Guy, added another 57 In-N-Outs before his death from an accidental overdose of painkillers in 1999.

Lynsi Torres

Lynsi Torres

Matriarch Esther resumed control of the company, whose headquarters for decades was right where everything began was in Baldwin Park. She died in 2006.

Today, the privately-held company is owned by the Snyder’s only grandchild, 31-year-old Lynsi Torres. She is the youngest female billionaire in America, according to Bloomberg.

She is the company’s sixth president holding the same job as her grandfather, grandmother, uncle and father, Guy Snyder. Like her father, she is a drag racing enthusiast.

In-N-Out operates in more than 290 locations in six states.

Filed under: California History

1 Comment »

  1. I toured their beef processing plant a few years back. You could eat off the floor. Unbelievable standards for quality and really great people. They open about one store a month and the demand is unreal. In Utah the traffic for the grand opening blocked the interstate. They have always kept it simple and don’t mess with a good thing. I wish they were here in Virginia

    Comment by Michael T. Jarvis — 10.31.2013 @ 4:13 pm

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