A petition on Change.org has thousands calling for famed California burger chain In-N-Out to add vegetarian options to its menu. Started by the Good Food Institute, which focuses on improving the country’s food systems and accessibility, the petition asks In-N-Out to compare the vegetarian fare of its competitors to its sole option of “a cheese-slathered bun” and consider adding a veggie burger.
There are a few problems with this request. First, a virtually identical petition was launched on Change.org four years ago and, despite thousands of signatures, didn’t result in animal-style veggie burgers. Second, invoking White Castle’s veggie sliders is not an effective way to make a point of any kind, unless the point is diarrhea. Third, the bun isn’t slathered with cheese — that would imply that the cheese was physically spread on the bun. It’s melted, like any good (or great) grilled cheese. But let’s not chalk up the unlikelihood of this petition’s success to semantics. Rather, here are a few more legitimate reasons In-N-Out probably won’t be heeding the calls of these potential fans.
1. Delicious veggie burgers that keep their shape and do plant eaters justice are difficult to make, can be tricky to prepare, need their own dedicated space on the griddle to avoid cross-contamination and would be something In-N-Out would have to develop on its own as a large-scale operation. Plant-based meat-like burgers are expensive and haven’t quite hit the mainstream market, require separate space to store and prepare, and require a specialized method to cook (we know — we tried them at the office). One of many reasons In-N-Out has enjoyed so much success and a cult following is that they’re fast, clean, streamlined and consistent — a well-oiled machine. How else could they handle the volume of cars backed up to the freeway and the line out the door every day?
2. In-N-Out can’t be made vegan. It just can’t. Now, should a vegetarian hanker for one of the best on-the-fly grilled cheese sandwiches they’ve ever had, complete with tomato, lettuce, pickles and burger spread and washed down with a thick, creamy black-and-white shake, In-N-Out has them covered to the nines. But those looking for more of a protein boost or those who eschew dairy altogether are out of luck. Here’s the thing, though: It’s California. Throw a stone and you’ll hit a place with lots of solid options.
3. It’s not like losing potential vegetarian or vegan customers will hurt franchises, because they never had them to begin with. Business is good. In-N-Out built its massive, dedicated fanbase from people who trust its beef suppliers, enjoy watching their spuds be cut on the hand-operated fry cutter (then saying, “We should get a fry cutter”) and think mustard-spiked caramelized onions on top of burger-sauced cheese fries is about as good as it gets. Sure, everyone likes to drum up a little extra business, but to tell you the truth, the lines are long enough.