In-N-Out, the California-based fast-food chain with a cult following, announced on January 10th that it plans to expand eastward. Fans have been burned before, but this time it’s for real. As first reported by Restaurant Dive, the company will begin its expansion by building an “Eastern territory office” in Franklin, Tennessee. The announcement is huge for In-N-Out lovers across the country, but don’t get too excited—the first restaurant of the expansion, set to be located in Nashville, isn’t slated to open until 2026. So no, you can’t actually order burgers from the company’s new Tennessee office.
In-N-Out, which first opened in 1948 as a humble burger stand in Baldwin Park, California, has long been synonymous with the state. It’s built a reputation around its fresh ingredients, off-menu if-you-know-you-know meal configurations, and extremely cultish fans. Hundreds lined up for the 2011 opening of an In-N-Out in Texas, and, in an impressive commitment to animal-style fries, one family even road-tripped to visit every single location.
But not everyone thinks In-N-Out is the greatest thing to ever happen to a burger. Many have declared the chain “overrated.” The company has also faced its fair share of controversy, most recently when one location refused to enforce a mask mandate during the pandemic. Its highly visible Christian and conservative ties have raised some eyebrows, too: In-N-Out has received a lot of attention for donating to republican political campaigns, and for sneakily printing bible verses on its packaging in tiny print.
Despite some negative attention, In-N-Out has continued to grow over the years. The chain has made other expansion efforts in the past, moving as far east as its Texas expansion in 2011, but Lynsi Snyder, the In-N-Out heiress and the company’s president, has not seemed eager for much more—until recently. “I don’t see us stretched across the whole U.S. I don’t see us in every state,” she said in a 2018 interview with Forbes. But in this week’s press release, Snyder acknowledged that In-N-Out fans span the country. “For many years, we’ve heard requests from our customers in Tennessee to consider opening locations near them, further east than we’ve ever been,” she said. Although it would take years, opening an In-N-Out in Tennessee could be a signal that the beloved burger chain will keep moving across the U.S.
With 385 In-N-Out locations, the chain is by no means local, but expanding to the East Coast would likely come with its own challenges. Would the brand be able to replicate its cultish appeal so far from home? Could New York lettuce and tomatoes ever compare to what California has to offer?? Today (okay, 2026) Tennessee, tomorrow… the world?