The fine state of Missouri is known for many great things, from its incredible barbeque to its Gateway Arch and lustrous great planes. However, the state is missing one thing: an In-N-Out restaurant and one of the best places to put it would be in the bustling area of Kansas City. After all, there are many In-N-Out restaurants in Texas, which is not so far away. So, is In-N-Out Expanding to Kansas City Next? That’s what we’ll look at today. While there are some factors working on the state’s behalf, it’s not a sealed deal just yet. Let’s look at the details.
Why Are the Citizens of Kansas City Excited About In-N-Out?
Many people in the state are excited about In-N-Out expanding to Kansas City because they’ve heard great things about the restaurant chain. However, others may be scratching their heads, wondering what all the hype is about. For those not in the know, In-N-Out was started back in 1948 in Baldwin Park, California, by Harry and Esther Snyder. It was one of the first burger restaurants in the state, and it was pretty revolutionary for introducing the speaker system that allowed customers to order from their car.
The restaurant is unique in the fact that customers who walk in will see a very simplistic menu that offers only three primary options: cheeseburger, hamburger, and hamburger with two patties. There are also milkshakes, soft drinks, and fries. Later on, the customers started to notice a secret menu where they could order unique items, such as a grilled cheese, a burger with four patties, and an “animal style” burger that was wrapped in lettuce instead of two buns. To top it all off, the company prides itself on only offering the freshest ingredients, and patrons can see employees chop up the potatoes and make the fries right in front of their eyes.
Where Are In-N-Out Restaurants Located Now?
If Kansas City is to get an In-N-Out restaurant, it will be a long time coming. Currently, most In-N-Out restaurants are located in the West. There are In-N-Out restaurants in 279 cities, and there are over 394 restaurants in total. Most of the restaurants are in California, and the third most are in Arizona. However, not too long ago, the company started opening restaurants in Texas, which is only a state away from Missouri. All in all, In-N-Out restaurants can be found in:
- Oregon (4 locations)
- Colorado (8 locations)
- Utah (12 locations)
- Nevada (23 locations)
- Arizona (34 locations)
- Texas (41 locations)
- California (272 locations)
The fact that Texas has the second most restaurants is a good sign that means that expansion is not so far away.
The Key to New Restaurants Are the Distribution Centers
The fact that most restaurants are in western states, but there are also so many in Texas and nowhere else in the country, can be a bit confusing. There is a method behind the madness, and it’s the company's distribution centers. Since the company insists on having fresh food, they have a rule that every In-N-Out restaurant must be within 300-600 miles of a distribution center. They don’t want to have trucks drive across the entire country to deliver meat and potatoes that could go bad over time. Plus, the company prides itself on serving customers in a timely manner, and that requires supplies like trays, napkins, utensils, and more, and they don’t want to wait for deliveries from far away.
Currently, distribution centers are located in:
- Draper, Utah
- Lathrop, California
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Baldwin Park, California
- Colorado Springs
- Dallas, Texas
In 2023, the company announced that they were also building a brand new corporate office/distribution center in Franklin, TN. That marks the first time that the company will set up operations east of the Mississippi River. The project is set to finish in 2026, and then they’ll start building restaurants in the state.
Is In-N-Out Expanding to Kansas City Next?
As far as the idea of In-N-Out expanding to Kansas City, it could be possible, but it likely won’t be for many years. The company is very unlikely to build a distribution center in Missouri and Tennessee at the same time.
The good news is that Kansas City would qualify for the rule that In-N-Out sets forth. When you look at the mileage, Kansas City is just over 500 miles from the existing distribution center in Dallas, Texas, so it fits within the necessary 600 miles. In fact, even if the center in Franklin, TN, served the Kansas City restaurant, that’s also just under 600 miles away and would fit the bill.
Reasons In-N-Out Should Expand to Kansas City
Besides the fact that Kansas City falls within the “600-mile” rule, there are other reasons why the company should consider heading to Missouri. One of them is the population size. As of the 2021 census, there are over 500,000 people living in the city. The In-N-Out company likes to go to places that are highly populated because that means there’s a large customer base. In California, there’s a population of about 145,000 people around each restaurant. There’s more than that in Kansas City alone, so it should be a no-brainer.
Also, that many people in one spot means that there are plenty of folks who could work in a new restaurant or distribution center. That 500,000 represents a huge candidate pool, and there are bound to be those who could work as service workers, managers, and more.
There’s also the fact that Missouri ranks as one of the states with the highest number of fast-food restaurants. They wouldn’t all open if there wasn’t a customer base there that loved fast food. So, In-N-Out could be missing a big opportunity.
What’s Working Against In-N-Out in Kansas City?
Along with the fact that the company is already building a distribution center in Tennessee and they’re unlikely to build another in Missouri at the same time, there’s also the fact that the company is just not interested at this time.
In a statement to the Business Journal, Denny Warnick, the Chief Operating Officer of In-N-Out, said outright that he could not confirm that they have plans to open a restaurant in Missouri. So, even if they intend to do so in the future, they’re keeping it a secret, so Kansas City residents may not want to hold their breath.
Other Famous Restaurant Chains Not In Kansas City
While Kansas City is certainly missing an In-N-Out, that’s not the only famous chain restaurant that has yet to lay down roots in the city. These other chains are also a no-show:
- Bojangles – This tasty restaurant is famous for its big menu that includes chicken, biscuits, and more. However, at this point, the closest Bojangles is in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, so hungry folks have a long ride ahead of them.
- Portillo's – This is one of the best restaurants when it comes to hot dogs, but they also sell burgers, beef, salad, and more. The downside is that the closest is in Springfield, Illinois.
- Del Taco – This is essentially the Taco Bell of the West. They serve hard and soft tacos, nachos, and more. At this point, Kansas City residents will need to drive to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to get it.
- Tim Hortons – This famous coffee shop started in Canada, but it’s been spreading around the country. With that said, Missouri residents will still need to travel to Ashland, Kentucky, to get their fix.
- El Pollo Loco – This is like the KFC of the West. They’re all about chicken, and people really seem to like it. The sad news is that the closest one to Missouri is in Allen, Texas.
So, is In-N-Out Expanding to Kansas City Next? It’s hard to tell. While it’s certainly in the realm of possibility, it’s hard to say confidently one way or another. Only time will tell. In the meantime, make sure to check out the other great restaurants in Missouri.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©samroundy/Shutterstock.com.