In-N-Out Burger led the industry in terms of average visits per store last year, thanks in large part to a strong cult following on the West Coast. Can the burger chain maintain its status as a foot traffic leader as it expands into new territory?
The brand in January unveiled plans to build a $125.5 million corporate office in Tennessee and open locations in Nashville by 2026. The new locations will be the chain’s first stores east of Texas. Mobile analytics platform Placer.ai dug into In-N-Out’s visitation data for a look at the potential foot traffic implications of the planned expansion.
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In-N-Out has 385 corporate-owned units across California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Oregon, and Colorado. A look at average visits per location at dozens of fast-casual and quick-service chains shows In-N-Out leads the pack by a wide margin. According to Placer.ai, it averaged nearly 700,000 visits per store in 2022. That’s more than four times the industry average of 121,000.
It’s common for those numbers to drop off as a chain moves beyond its home market, but In-N-Out’s expansion has yielded encouraging results so far. Looking at Texas, traffic has lagged behind legacy markets in California but remains well ahead of national averages. The chain entered Dallas in 2011, followed by Austin in 2013 and San Antonio in 2014. Visits per location in those markets averaged between 300,000 and 400,000 in 2022, compared to the 106,500 nationwide average for quick-service chains.
The foot traffic trends are more encouraging in the chain’s most nascent markets. In-N-Out entered Houston in 2019 and averaged more than 600,000 visits per store in that market last year, on par with legacy locations in the Golden State. In Denver, which it entered in 2020, average visits per store approached 990,000.
The conclusion? In-N-Out Burger looks primed for continued expansion. Its success in new markets may be a sign its cult status is growing. And while chains run the risk of diluting their brand when they enter a new territory, the report notes that In-N-Out is likely to “strike a balance between building enough locations in a market to gain scale efficiencies without diminishing the brand by overexpansion.”
The growth story in Dallas offers a good example of scaling prudently. It took In-N-Out roughly a decade to reach two dozen stores in that market.