Esther Snyder is dead!
It's a name you may not know, but a death that could have big repercussions on one of the few acceptable options--in fact, a legendary exception-- in the world of fast food.
Esther was co-founder and president of In-N-Out Burgers, which may be the best hamburger chain in the country. It's a landmark stop in the California dream, run by family who sticks to what they’re good at. They sell only burgers and fries. No chicken nuggets or fish patties. And though, despite the suggestive name, the chain is notorious for printing Bible verses on the bottom of their soda cups, it's best known for quality.
Even the book Fast Food Nation points to In-N-Out as a hamburger chain that does it right, taking equal care of its employees and product (our editor doesn’t eat meat, but heads in occasionally to order the secret menu's “grilled cheese” specialty, which is a burger with the works—without the burger).
Esther and her husband Harry opened the first In-N-Out in Baldwin Park, California in 1948, around the same time McDonalds, Jack-In-The Box and other Southern California burger stands were starting up and branching out. But as the competitors oozed across the country, they stayed small, and loyal to employees, customers and product. Today, there are only about 200 outlets in California, Nevada and Arizona.
Now it’s been announced that matriarch Esther Snyder died at 86.
The last time Esther made the news was in a family lawsuit earlier this year. The suit alleged that Esther’s granddaughter and sole heir Linsi Martinez and her brother-in-law Mark Taylor, the vice-president of operations (pictured with Esther at right), were trying to cut Esther out of the business so they could expand quickly to McDonald’s proportions. That could mean changes in production, cooking and hiring practices, turning In-N-Out into just another greasy fast food killer.
The lawsuit was settled out of court and the results were not disclosed.
But now Esther’s dead. Taylor will succeed her as president.
Sole heir Linsi is left holding the burgers. Get ‘em while they’re still hot.