There is no West Coast burger chain that’s more beloved than In-N-Out Burger. Known for their fierce focus on high-quality ingredients, In-N-Out has built a cult following.
Yet, if you live around Settle, you’re out of luck. There are currently zero In-N-Out Burgers in Washington state. However, the company is expanding rapidly in states like Texas and Colorado, which raises the question of whether Washington state locations are next.
Let’s dig into the reasons why In-N-Out hasn’t built stores in Washington state, the likely city a first store in the state would open, and what a timeline for In-N-Out coming to the Evergreen State looks like.
In-N-Out Locations Near Washington State
The closest In-N-Out location to Washington state is located in Keizer, Oregon. That city is about 55 miles south of Vancouver, Washington. While In-N-Out opened its first Oregon location in 2015, they’ve expanded slowly in the state. Presently there are only four locations, with the other three in Southern Oregon towns on the I-5 corridor.
However, it should be noted that In-N-Out wants to come to the Portland area. The company submitted an application in February 2020 to build a Beaverton location. That application was formally denied in October 2022 after community members complained about potential traffic from the store. In-N-Out just recently appealed that decision in August 2023, which shows they’re still determined to build a store on the border of Washington State.
Where In-N-Out is Focused on Expansion
In-N-Out is a California chain. The company was founded in 1948 near Los Angeles and still maintains the vast majority of its locations in the state. As of August 2023, there are 392 total locations with 185 in Southern California and 86 in Northern California.
The first In-N-Out expansion occurred in 1990 when their first location outside of the Los Angeles area opened in San Diego. Two years later the chain opened its first store outside California in Las Vegas, and in 1993 it opened its first Northern California location. The first Arizona store opened in 2000.
In-N-Out expands at a much slower rate than other popular fast food chains. It didn’t hit its 50th location until 1988. In 1994 they hit the milestone of 100 stores and didn’t get to 200 until 2007. It’s now been 16 years and the company still hasn’t quite doubled again to the 400 store milestone.
A large reason for this slow expansion is that In-N-Out wants to maintain a focus on quality. Each new location must be within about 600 miles of a distribution center. In 2010 the company announced their biggest expansion yet, which was a distribution center in the Dallas area. This distribution center has allowed them to open 41 locations in the state with many more to come. They’ve followed up with a distribution center in Colorado Springs which has led to 8 locations in Colorado.
Today In-N-Out has locations in the following states:
- California (271 locations)
- Nevada (21 locations)
- Arizona (35 locations)
- Utah (12 locations)
- Texas (41 locations)
- Oregon (4 locations)
- Colorado (8 locations)
In addition, new stores have been announced for Idaho and Tennessee. The Tennesee expansion is important because it’s the first time In-N-Out has moved east of the Mississippi River. The company is building a brand-new corporate office in the city of Franklin, which is a suburb of Nashville. The office will handle the company’s expansion into the Eastern United States.
Why Hasn’t In-N-Out Expanded to Washington State?
The main reason In-N-Out hasn’t expanded into Washington state is that it’s too far away from their nearest distribution center.
The company’s distribution center for Northern California is located in Lathrop. That city is located about 9 miles south of Stockton. In-N-Out first opened an Oregon location in Medford, which is about 370 miles away from Lathrop. That’s easily within range.
However, by the time you drive a truck from Lathrop to Portland, that’s a total distance of 650 miles away.
Now, it’s worth noting that while In-N-Out aims for a maximum distance of 600 miles from a distribution center, they will stretch those limits to reach a market. One of their locations is about 685 miles from its nearest distribution center.
It’s likely In-N-Out opened their mostly northerly location near Salem because it’s almost exactly 600 miles from Lathrop. With that store having operated well since 2018, they’ve made the decision to stretch into the Portland market with their plans to open a Beaverton store.
With In-N-Out trying to expand in Portland, the most likely first location in Washington would be in the Vancouver, Washington area. Vancouver is just a slightly longer drive than Beaverton, is in the Portland metro area, and could establish the first Washington location. The first announcement of this could be as early as 2024 if the company is more aggressive in expanding. However, if In-N-Out wants to first open a location in Beaverton and operate it for years before a full expansion across the Portland market, it could be 2030 or beyond by the time a Vancouver location opens.
However, the Seattle area is more than 800 miles away from the distribution center, which means In-N-Out would need to create a new distribution center to service Seattle and other northerly cities of the Pacific Northwest.
Will In-N-Out Expand to the Seattle Area?
The sad reality for Seattle area In-N-Out fans is that an expansion to the Emerald City faces some challenges.
In-N-Out’s most recent announcements of new distribution centers happened in 2010 (Texas), 2017 (Colorado), and 2023 (Tennesee).
You can see that each major geographic expansion occurs about 6 to 7 years apart while the company focuses on building out their prior distribution center area and ensuring new stores are operating at extremely high levels.
There are two main challenges to In-N-Out coming to Seattle in the near future:
- The company just announced their eastern expansion to Tennessee. That expansion will be the furthest In-N-Out has gone beyond its California headquarters. Also, it will surely demand a lot of the company’s attention as more than 50% of the U.S. population lives east of the Mississippi. Simply put, this is the most important expansion In-N-Out has ever embarked on.
- Before even considering coming to Seattle, the company needs to continue expanding in Portland. With the Beaverton store in zoning battles for three years, that’s delayed their northern expansion.
The advantage of building a distribution center near Seattle would be that In-N-Out would no longer need to stretch so far to deliver supplies to its Oregon stores. In addition, it could potentially even expand outside the United States for the first time to Vancouver and British Columbia.
That’s almost certainly a good enough market for In-N-Out. They recently opened a distribution center to serve Colorado, a state with about 6 million people. Washington state has a population of 8 million, there are about 5 million people in British Columbia, and the distribution center could also serve northern Idaho and even western Montana.
Eventually, In-N-Out will come to Seattle, the biggest question right now seems to be how much of its attention is focused on its eastern expansion in Tennessee. I wouldn’t count on any stores in the Seattle area before 2030, but you’ll be able to drive about 3 hours south to Portland to get your fill.