In-N-Out Snubs Houston

In-N-Out Burger snubs Houston for yet another new Texas city: Why the fast food cult fears H-Town

In-N-Out Burger snubs Houston for new Texas city: What's the big deal?

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In-N-Out burger may be coming to San Antonio, but the company hasn't announced that it will come to Houston. 
In-N-Out Burger meal
For now, Houstonians will have to head to Austin or Dallas for a signature double-double with fries. Photo courtesy of In-N-Out Burger
Chris Shepherd eating an In-N-Out Double Double burger with Underbelly sous chef Ryan Lachaine June 2013
Chris Shepherd may have run afoul of In-N-Out with his UB Double Double, but the Houston chef has since mended fences with the California chain.  Underbelly/Twitter
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In-N-Out Burger meal
Chris Shepherd eating an In-N-Out Double Double burger with Underbelly sous chef Ryan Lachaine June 2013

California-based burger chain In-N-Out already has locations in Dallas and Austin with plans to expand to New Braunfels, but now it looks like another Texas city will soon know the joys of Neapolitan shakes and Animal-style burgers. But they aren't targeting Texas' largest city. 

Following a complicated path through shell companies and corporate directors, the San Antonio Express News discovered that a new In-N-Out will be replacing a TGI Friday's in the Alamo City.

" If I had to guess, they've looked at the demographics and seen Houston is already flooded with burger chains."  

Which led us to wonder (again) why hasn't the burger behemoth turned its eyes towards Houston? After all, the city is appropriately burger obsessed and rumors have swirled for years that In-N-Out will open here. 

In-N-Out has certainly noticed Houston's fervid burger scene, having sent Chris Shepherd's seasonal restaurant Underbelly a cease and desist letter after it became aware of the "UB Double-Double," which In-N-Out alleged infringed on its trademark. Shepherd responded by renaming the offender as the "Cease and Desist burger," where it remains on both the Underbelly and Hay Merchant menus.

While we wait for In-N-Out to respond to questions about venturing into the Houston market, we turned to Hubcap Grill owner (and burger expert) Ricky Craig for his perspective on why the chain has avoided Houston.

"If I had to guess, they've looked at the demographics and seen Houston is already flooded with burger chains," Craig tells CultureMap. He cited the popularity of national chains like Five Guys and Smashburger as proof that Houstonians will embrace anyone with a good concept. Does that mean Houston is too intimidating for the foodie favorite?

"I don't think they're scared. Any location they open, people will wait for burgers. I just think they're being smart with their resources."

Craig says he's never tried the cult-classic burgers, but he'd "love to . . . I bet it's great."

Meanwhile, California transplants will have to content themselves with Hubcap, Becks Prime, Whataburger and all the rest of the local options. 

Unless they're too snooty to appreciate them, that is. 

Update: Shortly after this article was published, Carl Van Fleet, In-N-Out vice president for planning and development, provided CultureMap with the following statement:

We are pursuing a few projects in San Antonio (and another potential opportunity in New Braunfels as well) and we are very enthusiastic about the opportunities there.  That said, it would be premature to comment on the status or timing of any of those projects, it is still pretty early in the process.  Once we begin construction on a new restaurant it usually takes about 5 months before we are ready to open but a whole lot still has to happen before we’d be even close to starting construction on any of those potential sites.   

As far as Houston is concerned, we do hope to be there in the future but we are not currently looking at any opportunities there.