Food News

State Official Invites In-N-Out to Relocate to Florida, Instagram Bedlam Ensues UPDATED

After the State of Florida's CFO issued an online invite to In-N-Out Burger, @OnlyInDade broke out the Insta-megaphone for its nearly 700K followers.
After the State of Florida's CFO issued an online invite to In-N-Out Burger, @OnlyInDade broke out the Insta-megaphone for its nearly 700K followers. Instagram screenshot via @OnlyInDade
Update published 11/11/2021: Yesterday evening, In-N-Out Burger emailed New Times the following statement from its chief legal and business officer, Arnie Wensinger:

On Monday, November 8, In-N-Out Burger president Lynsi Snyder-Ellingson had a phone call with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The phone call was at the request of Governor DeSantis and the primary purpose was to establish a business relationship. During that call, Governor DeSantis graciously invited In-N-Out Burger to do business in the state of Florida. While we are thankful for the gracious invitation, In-N-Out Burger has no plans or intention to expand operations or move its corporate headquarters to Florida.

The original story is below:

Beloved California-based chain In-N-Out Burger has built a devoted fanbase that swears by its "not-so-secret" Double-Doubles and Animal Style Fries.

But, unless South Flordians venture west for the weekend, the burgers (made from fresh — never frozen — beef and fries cooked in sunflower oil) are out of range.

Recently, the family-owned company made news by flouting San Francisco's strict COVID policy that requires restaurant patrons to show a vaccine card before entry. In-N-Out's chief legal and business officer, Arnie Wensinger, responded with a statement that read, "We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government. We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business. This is a clear government overreach."

That, in turn, inspired the State of Florida's chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis to take to social media to invite In-N-Out to relocate its headquarters to the Sunshine State. Last week, Patronis posted bite-size excerpts from a letter he wrote to In-N-Out, adding, "Look if California doesn’t like In-N-Out Burger, and In-N-Out Burger doesn’t like California, then when when [sic] do I need to schedule the U-Haul truck for the burger chain’s inevitable move to Florida?
Two days later, when the Instagram account Only in Dade amplified Patronis' sales pitch for the edification of its nearly 700,000 followers, more than 3,000 commenters chimed in — including the account belonging to the local fast-casual restaurant Pincho, which replied, "They would be In-N-Out of here in no time."

That quip hit a nerve with Miami-area In-N-Out fans, some of whom ventured that Pincho's burgers don't measure up to what the California powerhouse brings to the table.

Rather than mix it up in the comments thread, Pincho's partners opted to change lanes to the high road, offering a $25 gift card to every dissatisfied customer who'd ripped them.

Pincho cofounder and CEO Otto Othman tells New Times he posted the original comment because he felt Only in Dade was a good place to defend Pincho's Miami turf in a tongue-in-cheek way. "It's the place we all go to vent and have a little fun."

But when the message failed to hit the intended note, his team switched gears. "We said, if you DM us, we'll give you $25 for you and a friend to eat at Pincho. Then something incredible happened."

Othman says more than 50 people reached out and that he responded to each and every one. "Even the guy who wrote, 'you suck' — he was actually really nice," the CEO reports.

All told, Pincho gave away about $2,000 in gift cards. "If we can get a chance to turn something around and provide great customer service, it was worth every penny," Othman says. "Some people were surprised that there are actually humans behind the social media."

For the record, Othman says he's a fan of In-N-Out's burgers and would welcome the chain to town.

"I love the brand and welcome the competition. But it's like basketball — you gotta do a little trash talking."

In that spirit, Othman couldn't help adding that he believes Pincho's fries are superior to the out-of-towners'. "We'll take In-N-Out on when it comes to fries, that's for sure."

Is there any hope for In-N-Out to move to Florida? Miamians probably shouldn't get their hopes up.

In a post earlier this year, the food-news website Eat This, Not That! argued that In-N-Out will "never" expand to the East Coast, owing to its commitment to using fresh beef.

"[A]ll In-N-Out restaurants must be located within 300 miles of an In-N-Out meat distribution center," noted freelance contributor Owen Duff. "As of 2018, there were only two such distribution centers in existence: one in California, and the other in Texas."

New Times
 has requested comment from the California burger chain and will update this story with its response.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times, covering the restaurant and bar scene in South Florida. She has been featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat Street and Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Doss won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature on what it’s like to wait tables. In a previous life, she appeared off-Broadway and shook many a cocktail as a bartender at venues in South Florida and New York City. When she’s not writing, you can find Doss running some marathon then celebrating at the nearest watering hole.
Contact: Laine Doss