Thursday, April 19, 2007



Why does IN-N-OUT Burger have people lined up at three registers throughout the day and a line wrapped around the parking lot ordering at the drive-thru? Why is it that people get so excited about a new IN-N-OUT opening up near their home or office? Why do people make a point of taking their out of town guest to IN-N-OUT when they are visiting?

Why is IN-N-OUT so popular and successful? Is it because they have a huge menu selection? Is it because they have stores on every corner? Is it because they heavily advertise? No, no, and no. The generally accepted answer to their success is that they only do a few things and they do it well. You see, they only serve hamburgers, fries, & drinks and they do it with excellence at a very reasonable price. They don’t sell chicken, tacos, egg rolls, salads, pizza, or desert. They only sell hamburgers, fries, and drinks.


Now let’s take a look at Jack in the Box. Jack in the box has taken the approach of being a jack-of-all-trades. They have a menu that attempts to meet everyone’s desires. They offer hamburgers, fries, and drinks. However, they keep going with chicken sandwiches, tacos, egg rolls, cheese sticks, desert, salads, and a host of other options at any given time. Additionally, you can find a Jack in the Box restaurant on every other corner. Finally, they advertise. You can catch Jack on TV every night of the week on nearly every station.

So, one would naturally conclude that the numerous menu items, the huge number of locations, and the constant advertising must make Jack in the Box extremely desirable. Jack in the Box must be more popular than IN-N-OUT Burger. But this is not the case because, like most jacks of all trades, they are masters of none. Their food is generally not fresh, not considered high quality, and not highly sought after by most. In fact, many people get stressed out trying to decide what to order from this overstuffed menu. Additionally, People don’t count the days until the next one will open. When a new restaurant is opened it is pretty much a non-event. The reason they need a store on every corner is because it is not the kind of food or experience you want to drive out of your way for.


How does this relate to churches? Can we utilize this information to help understand the importance of focusing and setting priorities? What can a church learn from this example of competing fast food restaurant approaches?

Here are some thoughts. A Jack in the Box church will have a vast menu of ministries. It will have something for everyone. However, because there are so many areas of focus, the quality will be hard to control and the service to the congregation will end up being very mediocre. The location(s) of the church will be considered very important so that it will be easy for people to keep coming. Finally, there will be a huge emphasis on marketing and branding.

In contrast, an IN-N-OUT Burger church will be all about focus. It will determine its core values and set, at most, three priorities. This church will then execute these three priorities with excellence. The result will be a ministry that is fresh, attractive, and worth returning to week after week. The focus will not be on the location because people will be willing to drive out of their way to be part of it. In fact, people will want to bring their friends and family to experience this kind of church. Finally, the need for advertising will be non-existent due to the incredible word of mouth and grass roots following. The focus is on the product (changed lives) not on the brand.

There are many additional insights and practical truths that can be extracted from this study. I encourage all who are involved in church leadership to allow this simple illustration to challenge your thinking, your approach to ministry, and your view of the role of the church. For many churches it is time to get back to the basics and embrace the IN-N-OUT approach. While this will require some significant menu cutbacks, the result will be a renewed focus, a fresh simplicity, and an opportunity to deliver excellence.


Anita Hensley said...

very good! i really like your thoughts!

The DwOdge Crew said...

I agree with your main thought. If a church says that everything is important, then nothing is important. Being good at a few things is better than being mediocre at many. It is the whole quantity versus quality argument.

People NOT programs should always be top priority.

You said: "Finally, the need for advertising will be non-existent due to the incredible word of mouth and grass roots following. The focus is on the product (changed lives) not on the brand."

I think that advertising should not be a top priority but that it is somewhat necessary. Also, if you have a good product (changed lives) then that becomes your brand. What church doesn't want to be known for God's work in it?

A tagline used often at East Valley Bible Church is that "Changed Lives, Change Lives". It is true, let's advertise the kingdom by living changed lives!