How Lynsi Snyder Made $3 Billion From Hamburgers

When it comes to overcoming personal adversity and rising to success, few fit the picture better than the heiress to the In-N-Out empire, Lynsi Snyder. This surprisingly low-profile 38-year-old is one of the youngest female billionaires in the world thanks to her 97 percent ownership of the wildly popular West Coast burger chain. Although she was born into the founding family of the company, Snyder’s early adulthood was not characterized by privilege and luxury. Her path has been one of hard work, personal adversity, and danger.

At the age of 17, eager to please her father and enter the family business, she stood in line among dozens of other applicants to apply for an entry-level food prep position in a newly opened store. Tragically, her father died only months later of a prescription drug overdose, leaving her with grief and emptiness that she spent years trying to overcome.

Devastating setbacks made Lynsi Snyder a stronger leader

Around this time, Snyder also narrowly escaped the first of two attempted kidnappings. Shaken by these events, she moved to the corporate headquarters to work in the company’s merchandising department and wedded her high-school sweetheart. During that short-lived first marriage, she spent four years struggling heavily with drugs and alcoholism.

Determined to do better, she set to working her way through each department of In-N-Out’s corporate headquarters to learn every part of the business in person. At the same time, Snyder worked through several business courses to ensure she maximized her ability to understand the company’s management. Despite struggling with a second failing marriage during these years, her hard work and passion for the company paid off. In 2010, at the shockingly young age of 27, the former president of the company turned the position over to her.

Almost immediately, Lynsi Snyder’s laser-focus on the family company began to stimulate growth and improve the health of the company as she insightfully expanded the chain into Texas for the first time. When the heiress first stepped into the position of president, the company was worth an estimated $500 million by Forbes and had opened 215 locations since its founding in 1948. By 2013, she had driven that valuation up to $1.1 billion.

Going back to the basics

In 2012, the complex trust arrangement set into place by her grandparents—the founders of the company—came into half maturity with a 50 percent ownership of the stakes in the company. Recognizing that the brand’s core following most valued its simple menu list and high-quality ingredients, Snyder still declined to make large changes and instead opted to reinforce their fundamentals with an eye toward thoughtful and sustainable expansion.

Each In-N-Out burger restaurant is a highly profitable establishment, thanks to its avid following. Its profit margin has been estimated to be around 20 percent, far higher than both its nearest rival, Shake Shack, and similarly run companies. For decades, numerous third-party organizations and investors have begged for the company to go public. With an average estimated annual revenue of $4.5 million per location, the temptation to open as many stores as possible is understandable.

Snyder recognized, however, that a large part of the strength of the company lies in the carefully selected locations and tight corporate control over quality and employee hiring standards. Instead of opting for fast money-making options like franchising or selling shares, she doubled down on her grandparent’s philosophy of cost-saving through in-house sourcing and distribution. More importantly, her strong push for expansion was driven by the desire to grow and preserve her family’s legacy rather than the desire for a quick profit. Because of this, the company flourished rapidly.

Lynsi Snyder’s leadership keeps In-N-Out thriving

In stark contrast, however, her third marriage was already crumbling due to her husband’s cheating and overspending. Upon filing to divorce him in 2013 at the age of 32, Snyder decided to make a concerted effort to change her personal life for the better and to stop the self-destructive behavior cycles. She opened a religious non-profit and met her current husband, a relationship that has been solid as a rock since 2014. The increased stability in her personal life brought peace and joy, finally matching the success of her professional life.

In 2015, In-N-Out celebrated the opening of their 300th restaurant. In just under five years, Lynsi Snyder had expanded her burger empire by nearly 30 percent. In 2017, upon her 35th birthday, she received the last slice of her inheritance to total 97 percent ownership of the company. With its $1.26 billion valuation, she became an overnight billionaire. In less than three years, that estimate has exploded to $3.4 billion.

Today, Snyder’s vision has led to a total of 358 In-N-Out stores in six states along the West Coast with a seventh soon to come. Each of these has been carefully selected, constructed, and maintained to the exact standards set in place by her predecessors. They all maintain both high profit margins and consistent quality through careful and methodical planning and execution. Each new cluster of restaurants is placed on a purchased lot near a company-owned food processing plant and distribution plant, a clever business tactic that Forbes estimates saves between 9 and 15 percent in costs annually.

Lynsi Snyder is viewed as one of the best bosses in America

Despite being a multi-billionaire by even the most conservative estimate, Snyder cares about every one of the 26,000 employees that work for her. Her CEO approval rating on Glassdoor is over 97 percent, a testament to the high wages and excellent benefit packages given to full-time associates. The company commitment to employee welfare has resulted in one of the lowest turnover rates in the fast-food industry, which saves training and restaffing costs in the long run while increasing worker efficiency.

These days, Snyder has a more hands-off approach to running the company. She has set it firmly on its course and doesn’t need to overmanage it to get the results she wants. Instead, she spends much of her time working with her nonprofits, Army of Love and Slave2Nothing.

Lynsi Snyder’s net worth

With a current net worth of around $3 billion, 38-year-old Lynsi Snyder remains the youngest woman in the Forbes 400 richest list. As the top female CEO in America according to Glassdoor’s 2019 Employee’s Choice Awards, she has made her mark not only on her company, but also on the country. Her powerful work ethic, smart business acumen, and strong character were key in pushing past personal tragedies and obstacles that have brought others to their knees.