For those of you who may have missed the news, cult burger chain In-N-Out hosted a one-day pop-up yesterday
(Tue 14), bringing with it a not-inconsiderable amount of excitement. Kicking off at 11am and selling out less than a couple hours later, it was also a noticeably well-oiled affair. Here's what we learnt.
1) There aren't currently any plans to expand In-N-Out to Beijing or China.
For those of you getting excited that this pop-up may herald future Beijing branches to come, the realistic (and sad) bit of advice is don't – we've been reliably informed that there aren't currently any plans in the woodwork. Pop-ups around the globe have been part of In-N-Out's MO for years now, and a way to spread goodwill (and tasty burgers) to Double-Double-deprived locations. Previous pop-ups have included Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and even Beijing (back in 2013) – not including the countless other pop-ups across Australia, the UK and more.
Eager punters lining up at Las Coffee. Photo: Annabelle Lim
This prior experience with running pop-ups was seen clearly in Beijing's iteration: capped burger numbers, wristbands to allocate burgers (and to prevent people waiting in line for nothing), staggered entrances into the restaurant (to avoid overcrowding), a limited menu (to ensure faster preparation), plus a last-minute official announcement to avoid over-hyping the event (and avoid manic crowd numbers). It's a surprising strategy in an era where hype is practically currency, and one adopted to increase diner satisfaction, according to Eric Billings, In-N-Out's Manager of Special Foreign Events.
'At the end of the day, we don't want to disappoint anyone,' Billings asserts in reference to overly large crowd numbers. 'It's simply about letting people experience delicious, fresh burgers plus good service.'
So why go to all the effort of the pop-up then? 'Why not?', is the straightforward answer Billings gives. 'We want to let people who wouldn't normally get the chance experience our burgers.'
'We also don't tend to use the media,' he professes. 'Positive word-of-mouth has always been what we prefer to rely on.'
Eric Billings. Photo: Annabelle Lim
2) Every In-N-Out pop-up is run by a team recruited and flown in specifically for the event.
In this case, it's generally Billings plus a team of three chefs visiting from the States who oversee each pop-up.
Why the team? Because of the labour involved in preparing all 300-plus beef patties by hand (consider this fact 2b). Rather than importing frozen patties, the In-N-Out team uses locally sourced beef (in this case, imported Australian beef) to hand-make all the patties the night before. Their secret sauce, though? Brought in.
Photo: Winnie Tan/Prisco Asia Limited
3) In-N-Out's pop-ups allow people to pick from its secret menu.
Case in point: the first customer through the blocks yesterday reportedly ordered a 4x4 (Quad Quad) – that's a burger made with four beef patties and four slices of cheese – a monster not included in the listed three-item menu. And yes, they do prepare additional beef patties in anticipation of secret menu orders.