California native Austin Fischer got a little taste of home Wednesday at the grand opening of In-N-Out Burger in Killeen.
“I can come in here and everything is the same as home,” said Fischer, who has been in Killeen two years. “The whole store is set up the way it’s set up everywhere. I come here and I feel like I’m at home.”
In-N-Out Burger is prominent in California, where the burger joint first opened in 1948, and now has locations in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Texas. Killeen’s first In-N-Out planned to open its doors at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, but Executive Vice President Carl Van Fleet said the restaurant opened 30 minutes early for the nearly 20 eager customers who were lined up outside.
“In-N-Out is pretty much the best food you could ever put in your mouth,” Fischer said. “It’s fresh, and you can get it ‘animal style’ with chopped, grilled onions, the In-N-Out spread and cheese. They just put a lot of it on there and it’s perfect.”
By noon, a couple of hundred people had filed through the restaurant and cars lined up along Central Texas Expressway waiting to go through the drive-thru.
“We often have a sizable crowd on opening day, particularly when we’re in a new market,” Van Fleet said.
Van Fleet said Killeen is a “great location.”
“It’s obviously a very fast-growing and thriving city. It’s a vibrant community,” he said. “We’re really happy to be here.”
Melissa and John Marquez said they have been watching closely for the announcement the chain was opening for months.
“(Melissa’s) been counting down the days and checking Facebook waiting to see when it was going to open,” said John Marquez, who is from California. “I think Killeen is going to enjoy it, especially with the military here.
“There’s a lot of people from California in this area and it’s like having a piece of home here.”
Barbie Fowler, 72, works at the In-N-Out flagship restaurant in Irvine, Calif.
She’s worked for the company for 19 years, and is part of a team that travels to train employees of new In-N-Out stores.
“We’re here training the Killeen employees to be the best of the best,” she said. “Our food is exceptional, and our customer service is even greater than our food.”
Fowler said it’s the management and In-N-Out president, Lynsi Snyder, who have kept her with the company.
Van Fleet said the restaurant, at 2006 E. Central Texas Expressway, is looking to hire more people.
In-N-Out starts its employees at $10.50 per hour.