It isn’t often that restaurant openings in the suburbs of Boise make international news, but that’s what happened last week, thanks to In-N-Out Burger and crowd sourcing.
In-N-Out opened its first restaurant in Idaho on Dec. 12 in Meridian, population just under 130,000, according to recent data.
The Idaho Stateman’s report that customers waited in the drive-thru line for eight hours on opening day were repeated in long articles by the New York Post and the Daily Mail, which is based in London. The Washington Post put the wait at six hours.
Six days later, walk-up lines are still out the door and into the parking lot, according to posts on the In-N-Out Meridian Wait Time Tracker, a Facebook page set up a week ago.
One of the sources for news stories is John Sowell, a former Huntington Beach resident who waited for the event for nearly 24 hours in the cold.
He posts on the In-N-Out Enthusiasts Facebook page, which has more than 126,000 members.
Sowell’s passion for In-N-Out runs deep, he wrote in an email. He said he spent most of his early childhood in Southern California before moving to Idaho. In-N-Out became an occasional treat, but as the Irvine-based chain grew he has visited about 50 restaurants in California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Oregon. His first meal with his wife Kristy was in a Carson City In-N-Out.
He was fourth in line when he arrived at the Meridan restaurant at 12:30 p.m. the day before opening. He said the first people in line got their 11 hours earlier, at 1:30 a.m.
“I used an electric blanket to stay warm overnight as temperatures dipped to 37 degrees. I plugged into a solar battery we use when we’re camping. I got maybe 90 minutes of sleep. The excitement of what was to come made it hard to sleep.”
While he was waiting, a merchandise trailer opened up. He left his place in line and bought a copy of In-N-Out owner Lynsi Snyder’s recently published history of the chain, “The Ins-N-Outs of In-N-Out Burger.” Meanwhile, the restaurant opened a half an hour early, at 9 a.m., while he was waiting to buy T-shirts. But Snyder came over and signed his book, “so that was worth it on its own.”
When Sowell got in the restaurant, his receipt said he was customer 26. He ordered a “Double-Single,” which has two meat patties, one slice of cheese and chopped chilis. His was served with raw and grilled onions and sliced in half. He completed the order with fries and a Neapolitan shake.
“It was the same burger I’ve grown to love over the years,” he wrote.
He went back to the Meridian restaurant the following three days and mostly avoided lines by arriving at 10 a.m., a half-hour before opening.
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