Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff treated itself to a hearty meal of the West Coast favorite In-N-Out Burger before its red-eye trip back to New York from the debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
I can’t blame the staff for choosing the burger chain to celebrate what most media observers, including Business Insider’s Josh Barro, called a Clinton win.
If I were in that neck of the woods, I would certainly choose In-N-Out over other options.
But I have to wonder – why is this? In-N-Out makes a good burger, to be sure. It’s flavorful, tasty, and fresh.
But I’ve had much better burgers. In fact, in a face-off I conducted, Shake Shack clearly beat out In-N-Out in the burger category. It wasn’t even close.
So what is it that would keep me coming back to In-N-Out when there are objectively (in my mind) better options? It can come down to only one thing: psychology. Namely, the scarcity effect and the bandwagon effect. And the two are intertwined.
In-N-Out has plenty of locations, but its 313 restaurants are densely concentrated on the West Coast. This regional scarcity has played with the minds of burger fans and West Coast residents, realizing they can’t get their precious burgers when they travel to other areas.
This has tricked them into thinking In-N-Out is somehow special because it is relatively rare.
Even if the actual product doesn’t deserve the hype, more join the bandwagon without even realizing it, falling for the monster this hype has become. Things like the secret menu feed into this, creating a cult around the brand.
— Liz Kreutz (@ABCLiz) October 20, 2016
Californians should be embarrassed that they fell for this psychological trick hook, line, and sinker and have even gone as far as to integrate it into the regional identity.
There’s no economic reason that In-N-Out can’t expand faster than its current pace and beyond its current region. Plenty of other fast-food chains and restaurants have done so and maintained quality. It is just aware that it will loose some of the Cali cultural cachet it has built up along its 67-year history.
Don’t get me wrong: In-N-Out makes a good burger. But no burger can possibly live up to the hype surrounding In-N-Out.