Joe Walden is many things: a University of Kansas School of Business professor, an army veteran and a powerlifting world champion. However, students in his classes know him as an In-N-Out connoisseur.
The moment the words “extra credit” come out of Walden’s mouth, students pounce at an opportunity Walden said is the easiest five points any student could get. At the beginning of each semester, Walden asks for his students to email the In-N-Out franchise and request the chain be brought to Lawrence.
“I did two tours in southern California while I was in the army,” Walden said. “What I discovered about In-N-Out Burger, when I talked to folks at In-N-Out University, was the first time [In-N-Out] moved out of California-Nevada, they moved to a small town in Utah. There’s a link on their webpage where you can contact them. Apparently every adult in this [Utah] town went to the webpage and said, ‘We want an In-N-Out Burger in our town.’ So [In-N-Out] went there.”
According to the In-N-Out website, the burger mogul currently resides in only California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Oregon and Texas. The chain recently moved into Texas, opening two stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2011.
However, with the move to Texas, the chain built a new distribution center in Dallas, allowing for a wider delivery range.
“In-N-Out only delivers as far as their supply chain can deliver fresh foods every day,” Walden said. “They have a distribution center in northern Dallas, less than eight hours away. That’s a day’s drive from here.”
Walden said his theory is if a small town in Utah is able to win over In-N-Out with a large amount of residents requesting the chain go to their town, Lawrence should be able to do the same.
The distance between the Baldwin City, California, distribution center and the Centerville, Utah, In-N-Out restaurant is approximately 685 miles. Using 685 as a limit for distance a truck can travel from the distribution center every day puts Lawrence at a perfect distance, as the city is approximately 528 miles away from the Dallas distribution center.
While Walden said he has been offering this extra credit opportunity for the past six years, he has yet to receive a response from the burger chain. However, he remains hopeful of an eventual response.
“I think they’ll figure out eventually that there’s some correlation between the first of every academic semester there’s tons of emails, or that we really want an In-N-Out here in Lawrence,” Walden said.
Students enjoy doing the quick extra credit assignment not only for points, but for the opportunity to bring the first Midwest In-N-Out to Lawrence. Walden’s student Hunter Sinclair, a senior studying business at the University, has sent one of thousands of requests to the burger chain and supports the professor’s goal.
“At first I thought [Walden] was joking about the extra credit,” Sinclair said. “But when I turned in the email to him, he gave me five extra points. It’s crazy, but I hope this extra credit actually does help bring [In-N-Out] to Lawrence.”
Each Friday this December, Massachusetts Street second-hand clothing store, the Arizona Trading Company, is holding afternoon photo sessions with Friday the shop dog to raise funds for the Lawrence Humane Society.
The dream may be possible as it is not only a few emails coming from the University. For six years Walden has offered this extra credit, meaning 12 semesters worth of his students have emailed a request to In-N-Out. Walden said about 700 out of his 750 students each semester send in requests. Combining the requests from each semester, In-N-Out has received around 8,400 to 9,000 requests from the city of Lawrence for a restaurant.
The Kansas City metro area has also made an effort, which may have been more realistic due to the much larger population. “Bring In N Out to Kansas City” is a Facebook page with over 10,000 likes that was attempting to create a petition for the company, but it has seemed to have died out after a lack of posts for two years.
Walden’s time in California made an impact on his burger preference as he said he prefers the chain over other popular burger joints.
“Last time I was in Texas, I did a side-by-side comparison. I had Whataburger for lunch and In-N-Out Burger for dinner,” Walden said. “I still like In-N-Out Burger better.”
The odds In-N-Out comes to Lawrence were once slim, but people like Walden bring more life to the idea every semester.
—Edited by Nichola McDowell