To the average American living on the West Coast, these are familiar fast-food chains. But, according to location data, they are nowhere to be found east of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Don't believe us? Check out the map below and see where these three chains are located — or not — across the 50 states (and even in Guam!).
(Jack in the Box and In-N-Out data is as of March 15, 2019. Del Taco data is as of March 9, 2019. For the full database, see here.)
Why is this the case?
All three brands have their own reasons for not setting up shop in New York, Boston, and the like, with one common denominator: quality control. Whether it be distance to a distribution center, the lack of infrastructure in a potential new market, or even brand awareness, these three chains would have to change their entire infrastructure in order to survive in the east against established competition. And that is no easy feat.
Jack in the Box once had a presence in the Northeast back in the 1970's. However, due to financial hardship, it shrunk back down and shifted focus back to a successful Southwest home region.
Today, according to Jack in the Box VP of Corp. Communications & Gov. Affairs Brian Luscomb, the company takes a multi-step approach to determining new markets. With that approach comes several questions that it takes into account when it wants to plant its roots in another part of the country.
"In considering new markets, there are several things we look for – one of the most important being brand awareness," Luscomb told us. "Are people familiar with who we are? We’re a unique brand with a unique personality and menu. If people don’t know us, it could be expensive in familiarizing locals with our concept and what we’re all about."
"Infrastructure is also a consideration. Is there local leadership and systems in place to support the restaurants’ operations? How close is the market to a distribution center? Can enough locations open quickly to leverage our size in the market and enhance our buying power when it comes to things like media and other operating expenses? And most importantly, since our business model emphasizes franchise ownership, is a qualified franchisee interested in taking our brand into a new market and expanding?"
These questions align with In-N-Out's position on why it won't expand to all 50 states anytime soon. Besides the company's stance on fresh, never frozen food, President and CEO Lynsi Snider said the company would never franchise out its restaurants, which would put ownership of a location away from Snider quality control.
Del Taco plans to open six restaurants in Pennsylvania between 2018 and 2022, which would bring it closer to the tri-state area and New England than its fellow West Coast cult classic peers. In the press release for this announcement, Laura Tanaka, Del Taco's director of Franchise Development, said the "Mexican Quick Service Restaurant" has performed extremely well in new markets, and that Pennsylvania will be no exception.
"We've developed a proven market entry model that sets our franchisees up for success and we're actively seeking new franchise partners to grow with us during this very exciting time for the Del Taco brand as well as the limited service industry as a whole," Tanaka said in the release.
As of March 19, 2019, however, there are still no Del Taco locations in the Keystone State.
Could it be possible that In-N-Out, Jack in the Box, and Del Taco all set up shop in the heart of Midtown? Possibly; none of these brands technically ruled out ever expanding to these states. But all of the above in mind, you're better off flying to the West Coast to get a Double-Double Animal Style, a soft chicken taco with chili cheese fries, and that Jack in the Box Sourdough Patty Melt.