IN-N-OUT Lap Mat, 1976


This lap mat is made of white paper with a scalloped edge and printed border featuring the red and yellow IN-N-OUT Burger arrow. The right side of the mat includes a map of the greater Los Angeles area showing the locations of the eighteen IN-N-OUT restaurants that existed in 1976. The upper left displays the IN-N-OUT logo above a text box containing the simple question, “WHAT IS AN IN-N-OUT FRENCH FRY?” The not-so-simple answer provides consumers with information about the potatoes used (fresh, not frozen) and how they are cooked in vegetable oil, addressing growing concerns about healthy cooking oils.

“First, it is a Grade 1 fresh potato – peeled and diced at each location. Potatoes are peeled a few hours before cooking. The oil is pure vegetable oil used for cooking our fries to order.

Towels are used for drying off the oil. Remember when using a fresh potato, it may not look quite as consistent as a frozen fry—but the flavor you taste is the fresh potato, not cooking oil.

With portion controls of frozen foods being sold to restaurants, today, we are one of the only few still selling a fresh potato.”

While fast-food restaurants have been around since the 1920s, drive-thru dining came of age in car-crazy California in the 1950s. IN-N-OUT Burger was an early part of this trend, opening in 1948 at the intersection of Francisquito and Garvey in Baldwin Park, California. In the beginning, founders Harry Snyder and his wife Esther did all of the shopping, preparation, and accounting themselves. They also adopted a two-way speaker system, enabling customers to place their order without leaving their cars.

Eating in the car quickly caught on in the United States and IN-N-OUT’s decision in 1961 to offer customers paper “lap mats” to protect their clothing reflects the popularity of the practice. Harry Snyder began hand cutting the brown paper used by bakeries for packaging buns into rectangular mats. He soon switched to pink butcher paper thinking it would make dashboard dining a more enjoyable experience. When a printing company contacted Snyder in 1971 about replacing the butcher paper with printed lap mats, Snyder saw an opportunity to provide consumers with more information. Early versions of the lap mats featured maps of the local area and information on other IN-N-Out Burger locations. By the 25th anniversary in 1973, IN-N-Out Burger had 13 restaurants in Los Angeles County, all featuring a two-lane drive-thru and a limited amount of outdoor seating. In 1979, IN-N-Out opened its first single lane drive-thru facility with a large open dining room, a design that became the model for future expansion. In 2012, IN-N-OUT Burger had 281 locations in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Utah and remains a popular destination for both locals and tourists who want to eat on the go.

Date Made: 1976

See more items in: Work and Industry: Retail and Marketing, Food, FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

Exhibition: Food: Transforming the American Table

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Credit Line: Gift of In-N-Out Burger

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2012.0087.01Catalog Number: 2012.0087.01Accession Number: 2012.0087

Object Name: place matplacemat

Physical Description: paper (overall material)Measurements: overall: 10 in x 15 in; 25.4 cm x 38.1 cm


Record Id: nmah_1417939

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