A Billionaire’s Story
Net Worth: $3.6 Billion
Wealth Origin: In-N-Out
Birthplace: Glendora, CA
Education: Redding Christian School (High School)
Lynsi is the granddaughter of Harry and Esther Snyder, the celebrated founders of an iconic west coast hamburger restaurant chain called In-N-Out. Back in 1948, Harry introduced California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand in a space barely 10 square feet at Francisquito and Garvey in Baldwin Park. Out of his garage, he invented the speaker-box, enabling true “drive-thru” service for customers on the go.
The founding couple had two children together, Guy (Lynsi’s father) and Rich Snyder. When Harry passed away in 1976, the burger empire’s reigns were handed to Rich. Despite being older, Guy was skipped over because of an ongoing problem with opioids he had developed after getting into a motorcycle accident. There was no petty sibling rivalry, the family lovingly stepped forward into the next chapter of their lives.
While Rich was running the company, Guy retreated to his 115-acre ranch in Northern California. There, he was able to further develop his passion for drag racing and hot rods. About this time, Guy found love with Lynda Lou, they got married, and together had a beautiful baby girl named Lynsi. The Snyder family also made donations to the faith-centric private Redding high school that Lynsi would one day attend, Redding Christian School.
In December 1993, Rich flew to see his niece (Lynsi) play in her school soccer game then moved on to open store No. 93 in Fresno, CA. On his way back home, as the private jet descended into John Wayne Airport, the aircraft got caught up in turbulence generated by a nearby Boeing 757 and came crashing down to Earth, leaving no survivors.
In-N-Out executives scrambled to determine if Guy was ready to assume control of the family business, meanwhile, at his brother’s funeral he made the following statement in front of 2,000 other mourners, “Richie and I sometimes couldn’t even sit down and talk about things…(But) Rich always stuck up for me. I always did everything first. Richie always supported me. This one time, Richie went first. What happened has changed a lot of people’s lives.”
He concluded, “we just have to keep taking that step forward. . . . If I can follow in his footsteps, I will be the happiest person in the world.”
Thus Lynsi’s father was thrust into the flames of a burgeoning burger industry. He’d continue to grow the company with as much valiant fervor as his predecessors, however, the ever-constant stresses of success would come to haunt his personal life.
In an interview with I Am Second, Lynsi reflects on growing up before the craziness spilled into her family’s living room, “I remember being a pretty cheerful little girl that was a little bit spoiled because my siblings were 12 and 16 years older than me.” A point of note, Lynda had two children before meeting Guy.
“My dad was really funny, a little bit eccentric, loved to make people laugh, loved to laugh himself…He used to explain songs to me. We had this connection with music, with love music, he spoke to me like I was an adult when I was four years old. Somehow he had the wisdom and discernment that I was going to be exposed to so many different things in life and I was going to need that straight-forwardness and that honesty,” she shares.
When she was five or six years old, Lynsi began to notice how she’d sometimes visit her dad in the hospital; later she would understand it was actually a rehab facility treating his drug addiction. Her mom would simply tell her, he was “sick.”
A Daddy’s Girl
Despite the circumstances at home, Guy’s first six years as Chairman saw In-N-Out grow to an unprecedented 140 stores and over $200 million in revenue – he was a success by all conventional means.
At the same time, however, “On Christmas Day 1995 he was arrested for public intoxication and illegally carrying a loaded firearm, which he had along with a switchblade knife and marijuana,” reads one Forbes article. Lynsi grapples with her father’s issues, lamenting, “It was really hard for me to see him fail and be weak, because I knew how bad he wanted to be a good husband and good father.”
Lynda could only do so much; eventually, the pills, alcohol, and another woman led to her and Guy getting a divorce when Lynsi was just 12 years old.
“That’s when I really started longing for that attention and that love, because my dad was the greatest source of that,” she says. A nod to the gilded memories of her early childhood years, she’d get a scroll with the words “Daddy’s Girl” tattooed on her shoulder.
Lynsi continued her schooling in Northern California while her father took the Orange County-based burger chain to new heights. This fabled restaurant came to Lynsi’s town of Redding when she was 17 years old. “I stood in line for two hours to apply because it was a brand-new store,” she recalls. The manager knew who she was but none of the other employees did.
She started like anybody else, doing prep work; coring tomatoes, peeling potatoes, and slicing onions. Oh, and yes, of course, she cried every time when it came to cutting the onions! “I was really excited to work there, because it was the family business. It was fun, and I thought it would make my dad happy,” Lynsi told Orange Coast.
Not to exclude the evil outside forces of our world, she was targeted for abduction in high school, however, managed to evade her would-be kidnappers. Lynsi would later have to run across a highway at the age of 24 in order to avoid a boarded up van that had been following her. She shrugs off these encounters with danger, saying, “It all helped mold me into who I am now.”
“One day I was on my way to school and he had called in the morning and I talked to him…I was rushing him off the phone because I had to go to school. That was the last time I talked to him,” remembers Lynsi. After consuming too many pain killers, Guy had complained to a cousin that he was not feeling well and called 911 himself. The Los Angeles Times documents, he was taken to Antelope Valley Hospital at 1:08 a.m. Dec. 4 and declared dead shortly thereafter.
Upon hearing the news, Lynsi’s world shattered.
“After my dad died, there was no way I was gonna be alone. He’s gone so I had even greater reason to fill the void. I got married when I was 18, I had graduated a couple months before that. It wasn’t right. I knew that that small voice had told me ‘don’t do this,’ and I did it,” she says.
With Harry, Rich, and Guy having passed away, Lynsi was the only remaining heir to the In-N-Out fortune.
The Black Sheep
Following her high school graduation/marriage (m. 2000), Lynsi moved down to the Los Angeles area to work with In-N-Out’s merchandising department. She helped with shirt designs and such. Living near the city brought on new temptations for Snyder, she fell into a year-long stretch of alcohol and marijuana use. After just a few years, her first marriage ended in divorce.
“I realized that I’m going to fall into the footsteps of my father and that I’m going to meet an early death if I do not get right with God and follow him,” she recounts. After confronting her boyfriend about their dangerous behavior, he eventually told her that he got “saved” by Jesus and upon the news, the two jumped into what would turn out to be a short-lived marriage (m. 2004).
“Was it really the right thing? I can’t say no because I have two precious children from that marriage,” Lynsi adds.
Citing how afraid she was to be alone, she soon found herself in another relationship. This would blossom into her third marriage (m. 2011). In hindsight, she says, “he married me because of money.” Snyder remembers he’d constantly cheat on her – even while she was pregnant, talk down to her, and was all-together disrespectful in so many more ways. She calls it the worst time of her life.
Finding the Light
“God took me to a place I had never been before and he showed me that in that time where I felt more alone than ever, more of a piece of trash than ever, more of a failure…that he was there and he was ready to love me and fill that void. He’d been there all along wanting that but he just needed me to let go of that tangible person,” Lynsi determines, as she makes sense of those challenging times. “It was my dad first, then it was the next guy, the next guy…I was never willing to just let go to see God had something better.”
Once again Lynsi filed for a divorce, although, this go-around something was different. She took time to step away and self-heal – no longer needing to depend on anybody else’s love.
She makes clear, “I really value the love and good times I had with my dad but even that can’t compare completely to the love that God has for me.”
These Snyder’s have quite the knack for succeeding while under incredible pressure from their personal life. Consider this, as Lynsi was reeling from the horrors of her third marriage, she was simultaneously President and CEO of In-N-Out!
Her grandmother, Esther, passed away in 2006. Afterward, Mark Taylor, a longtime In-N-Out executive (who is also Lynsi’s brother-in-law), became company president, turning over the role to Lynsi in 2010. At only 27 years old, she got handed the reins of a 251 store burger empire that was doing over $500 million in sales.
Obviously, like any billionaire heir, she was born into a pretty great career situation. However, taking into account that she started at the food prep station, worked up the management ranks, took on roles in various corporate departments, and harnesses a very conservative nature when protecting the meaningful traditions of her beloved family’s business, you’ll find that there’s no better person for such a job in our world.
To begin with, Snyder’s greatest contribution to the burger chain since taking over is her attitude of not making changes. That’s not to say she doesn’t have great ideas, but if it’s not broke, why fix it?
“John 3:16” has been printed onto every In-N-Out cup since the ’90s, the verse reads, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Lynsi is responsible for the addition of Proverbs 24:16 (“ … the wicked shall fall into mischief”) to the fries container and Luke 6:35 (“But love ye your enemies, and do good”) to coffee cups.
“It was my uncle Rich who put the Bible verses on the cups and wrappers in the early ’90s, just before he passed away,” she recalled. “He had just accepted the Lord and wanted to put that little touch of his faith on our brand. It’s a family business and will always be, and that’s a family touch. In later years, I added verses to the fry boat, coffee, and hot cocoa cups.”
In-N-Out had actually started serving Hot Cocoa in the early 50s, yet somehow, the beverage disappeared from the menu. “I’m not sure how it fell off the menu but it’s part of our culture and something special for kids, and I’m happy that we’re bringing it back,” says Lynsi.
She adds, “For a certain generation, hot cocoa is an In-N-Out classic, and we hope it will be a favorite of a new generation. It’s quality cocoa from Ghiradelli and yes, we serve it with marshmallows!”
When DoorDash began offering In-N-Out via their delivery drivers without the burger chain’s consent, best believe there were problems. The fact of the matter is, In-N-Out can’t control the experience a customer is going to have when ordering through a delivery service.
The family-owned business simply cares so much about ensuring great service for guests, they’d rather avoid that potential for disappointment altogether.
Therefore, In-N-Out filed a lawsuit against DoorDash in 2015, stating, “[In-N-Out] has no control over the time it takes [DoorDash] to deliver [In-N-Out]’s goods to consumers, or over the temperature at which the goods are kept during delivery, nor over the food handling and safety practices of [DoorDash]’s delivery drivers.”
Both parties soon reached a settlement.
In addition, In-N-Out is constantly protecting the brand from copycat restaurants the world over. “I think the strangest place was in Malta,” Snyder says. “That little island in the Mediterranean, that’s pretty random.” The company has found other trademark violators in China, Denmark, and Ethiopia.
Plans for growth
She moved the company into Texas for the first time in 2011 and into Oregon four years later. In 2017 In-N-Out announced it would expand to Colorado as soon as they finished building a new regional headquarters and a patty-making facility there – likely by 2020. New Mexico may be next, a few years after Colorado, Snyder says, since the new supply center is nearby.
“I don’t see us stretched across the whole U.S. I don’t see us in every state. Take Texas—draw a line up and just stick to the left. That’s in my lifetime,” Snyder says. “I like that we’re sought after when someone’s coming into town. I like that we’re unique. That we’re not on every corner. You put us in every state and it takes away some of its luster.”
In order to ensure the freshest ingredients, stores can be no longer than a day’s drive from the nearest warehouse. This practice also helps keep menu prices low by minimizing distribution costs.
The Company Isn’t For Sale
Rich Snyder first expressed his absolute disgust towards the idea of selling In-N-Out when telling Forbes in 1989, “I would be prostituting what my parents made by doing that…There is money to be made by doing those things, but you lose something, and I don’t want to lose what I was raised with all my life.”
“We’ve had some pretty crazy offers,” says Lynsi. “There’s been, like, princes and different people throwing some big numbers at us where I’m like, ‘Really?'”
She continues, assuring potential buyers, “It’s not about the money for us. Unless God sends a lightning bolt down and changes my heart miraculously, I would not ever sell.”