Fans Help Put Employees First at Leading Burger Chain
There might be bigger, more successful fast food chains in the burger-loving U.S. of A, but few create the fun, feel-good loyalty fans have for the In-N-Out Burger chain.
Started in 1948 when husband and wife owners Harry and Esther Snyder opened the first In-N-Out Burger in their hometown of Baldwin, California, making it the city’s first drive-thru restaurant. Since then, In-N-Out has become a regional favorite, opening nearly 300 locations in four southwestern states and Texas, building a legion of followers along the way.
Part of the reason In-N-Out has such strong customer loyalty is because the company is so dedicated to its employees, in turn creating top-notch customer service for patrons. In addition, In-N-Out employee compensation is well above the average range for the fast food industry and the company invests time into their employees training, while most importantly, regarding them as family.
This devotion to their crew is reflected in the way In-N-Out equips their distribution centers. In-N-Out recently installed Serco® VELOCITY™ High Volume Low Speed (HVLS)
fans at their Phoenix facility to ensure a comfortable, productive work environment and a lower cost investment as opposed to an HVAC system in the heat of the Arizona desert.
In order to maintain total control over the quality of their products, new restaurant locations are sighted within driving distance of the Baldwin distribution center so the burgers can be made under their strict quality standards to maintain their signature taste and texture. Currently In-N-Out supplements the Baldwin facility with distribution centers in Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and the newest addition, Dallas. In addition to the burgers and buns from Baldwin, the distribution centers store quantities of fresh tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, ice cream, peppers, cheddar cheese, and milk.
These distribution centers emulate the atmosphere of the restaurants, replicating the stores’ white, yellow and red color scheme. In-N-Out maintains their distribution facilities by employing an efficient, cheerful workforce and in the case of the Phoenix facility, kept comfortable with the strategically positioned Serco VELOCITY HVLS warehouse fans.
The food ingredients are kept chilled until they are shipped to the stores along with the burger patties and buns, so freshness is key: And worker productivity key to shipping ingredients to the stores quickly.
In a business where employee comfort is the key to the operation, Serco VELOCITY HVLS warehouse fans installed thirty feet above the floor put air circulation to work in this ambient temperature facility. The high Phoenix temperatures can be brutal much of the year, and the heat would wear on the workers without some means of cooling.
According to Serco’s HVLS Fans Sales Manager, Dan Linder, “the guys who picked product from the racks in the back of the warehouse really felt the extreme temperatures because the air was still and stratified. Without an efficient way to move the air in the back of the warehouse by the racks the air felt even warmer causing for productivity to suffer.” What sold In-N-Out on the idea of installing the fans was how impressed they were with the blade construction and the air circulation capabilities they would be able to provide their employees.
The fan’s unique design and its lightweight one-piece extruded aluminum blades optimize fan performance without putting strain on the fan itself and allowing for a smaller motor that is more energy efficient.
The 6-blade design of the Serco Velocity fans creates less torque than the 10-blade competitive fans available on the market, which extends the life of the fans’ working parts. The fan’s six blade even spacing allows maximum air draw, while uniquely designed winglets at the tip of the blades prevent drag and increase fan performance.
The fans move large volumes of air while utilizing very little energy. The five Serco VELOCITY HVLS warehouse fans in the In-N-Out distribution center produce a large cylindrical column of air that flows down to the floor and outward in all directions. This action creates a deep “horizontal floor jet” that circulates air vertically up the walls and then draws it back in a central column, where it again flows toward the floor.
The sensation of coolness is not dependent on air temperature in the building as there is no cooling unit. Rather, the circulation causes the air to feel seven to eleven degrees cooler than it actually is as the breeze passes over the skin, making workers more comfortable and therefore more productive.
And indeed the fans contribute to warming the facility; in winter, the temperature in Phoenix can drop into the low 40s. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to differ 20 degrees from floor to ceiling. Warm air is trapped in layers, with the warmest air from the earlier part of the day found at the ceiling. Reversing the blades on the HVLS fans gently destratifies the layers and forces warm air down to the floor. In effect, the fans do the job of an HVAC system.
The 20,000 square foot In-N-Out Burger Phoenix facility has three fans in the dock area and two over the aisle running along the storage racks. Because each fan is able to circulate air in as much as 30,000 square feet of space, five fans with six 10-foot long blades and 20-foot diameter easily handle the needs of the room.
According to Tom Buffum, Facilities Manager, “The guys working here will tell you the fans are a life saver.” “We had the fans installed in late summer and we went through most of the hot weather in comfort. Here in Arizona, they make a difference.” The fans will contribute to the In-N-Out warehouse crew’s ability to keep up the pace as the number of locations continues to grow in the Phoenix area, without requiring additional energy to run the operation.