A Not-So-Secret Menu

Recently In-N-Out Burger held a pop up event in Surry Hills attracting huge interest from Sydney’s burger eating public. The first enthusiast arrived at 6am, 6 hours before the store was scheduled to open and long before the smell of grilled beef patties began to filter into the streets of the inner city suburb.

What would motivate a person to stand in line for hours for a hamburger when the nearest McDonald’s restaurant is only 1km away? Maslow’s theory may help explain the pop up store phenomenon. Can a product as simple as a hamburger that is only available for one day in Sydney really satisfy 3 levels of Maslow’s hierarchy? Reviewing Maslow’s theory it is clear that the In-N-Out burger will satisfy the most basic physiological need, as would the McDonald’s burger, but are the people in line motivated by something more? Hungry for a sense of connection perhaps?(Fournier & Lee, 2009)  The In-N-Out pop store enabled like-minded consumers to feel part of a community while waiting in line and due to the near 6 hour wait some tolerated, perhaps friendships ensued.

Maslow Heirarchy

Upon receiving the prized hamburger many of the supporters would have been quick to alert their friends and family through social media channels that they were in possession of one of the 300 burgers that were being sold. For some the exclusivity of the pop up restaurant would have provided a sense of respect and an increase in esteem, thus contributing to the satisfaction of another level of Maslow’s pyramid.

The marketing team at In-N-Out Burger were clearly not thinking about the basic economic relationship of supply and demand when they dreamt up the Sydney pop up store.

High Demand + Low Supply = $$$

The store only offered 300 burgers, at the reasonable price of $5 each. This suggests that there were other factors motivating the In-N-Out team. One behavioural consequence of the pop up restaurant is the shift of the purchase from what would normally be classified as low involvement to a high involvement purchase. The exclusivity of the offer forces consumers to plan the purchase well in advance of them buying the burger and receiving the benefits.

Another concept that is relevant to consumer behavioural studies that may have played a role in the stores conception is the desire by In-N-Out to create a brand community or even brand zealots. By providing a tangible product that consumers could smell, touch and taste rather than just an advertisement on a bus station or in the banner of a smart phone, In-N-Out were able to begin the initial development of a brand community over 12,000kms from their nearest restaurant.

Research shows that consumers may organize into brand communities to share their experiences of a brand. Conversely, consumers in an identifiable brand community represent a cohesive group that reflects the brand’s values. (Kalman, 2009)

It appears that the event in Sydney was created to bring this community together through the sharing of an experience, for a future purpose that is not yet known.

The event received a significant amount of publicity for what would have been a relatively small financial investment. Which shows that through the use of clever marketing channels and innovative concepts a brand can begin to affect its target consumers emotions well before its products are available in the market.

The question remains, were In-N-Out testing the Sydney market as a potential location for their first international expansion or are they just trying to increase sales at their American stores for when Australians travel to the United States. The later seems unlikely, but only time will tell.


Line outside In-N-Out Burgers pop up store in Surry Hills earlier this year.

Line outside the In-N-Out Burger pop up store in Surry Hills earlier this year – Daily Telegraph.



  1. Fournier, S & Lee, L. (2009). Getting Brand Communities Right. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2009/04/getting-brand-communities-right. Accessed 20 March 2016.
  2. Iacobucci, D. (2013). MM4. South-Western, Cengage Learning. Mason, USA.
  3. Kalman, DM. (2009). Brand Communities, Marketing and Media. Terella Media. http://www.terrella.com/bcmarketingwp2.pdf. Accessed 22 March 2016.
  4. McNally, G. (2016). Burgapalooza Sydney: Hashtag Burgers forced to reschedule event after 10,000 people respond. Daily Telegraph.  http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/lifestyle/food/sydney-taste/burgapalooza-sydney-hashtag-burgers-forced-to-reschedule-event-after-10000-people-respond/news-story/5666df4ef8f362b32b69d33a670d95d9. Accessed 20 March 2016.

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