Lunchtime at the flagship In-N-Out Burger restaurant in Baldwin Park, California, is a study in efficiency. As the order line swells, smiling workers swoop in to operate empty cash registers. Another staffer cleans tables, asking customers if they’re enjoying their hamburger. Outside, a woman armed with a hand-held ordering machine speeds up the drive-through line.
Such service has helped In-N-Out create a rabid fan base — and make Lynsi Torres, the chain’s 30-year-old owner and president, one of the youngest female billionaires on Earth. New store openings often resemble product releases from Apple Inc. (AAPL), with customers lined up hours in advance. City officials plead with the Irvine, California-based company to open restaurants in their municipalities.
“They have done a fantastic job of building and maintaining a kind of cult following,” said Bob Goldin, executive vice president of Chicago-based food industry research firm Technomic Inc. “Someone would love to buy them.”
That someone includes billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who told a group of visiting business students in 2005 that he’d like to own the chain, according to an account of the meeting on the UCLA Anderson School of Management website.
The thrice-married Torres has watched her family expand In- N-Out from a single drive-through hamburger stand founded in 1948 in Baldwin Park by her grandparents, Harry and Esther Snyder, into a fast-food empire worth more than $1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
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