In-N-Out’s Political Donation Attracts Boycott Calls, but Will It Matter?

In-N-Out’s Political Donation Attracts Boycott Calls, but Will It Matter?

In-N-Out Burger recently gave a $25,000 donation to the Republican Party, prompting calls to boycott the chain.

On Wednesday, the journalist Gabe Schneider reported on the donation and tweeted a picture of paperwork showing it. “In-N-Out added a new item to their secret menu,” he wrote, a reference to the once-secret burger variations that became popular through word of mouth.

Eric Bauman, the chairman of the California Democratic Party, reacted on Thursday by calling for people to eschew the cult burger chain.

“Et tu In-N-Out?” Mr. Bauman tweeted. “Tens of thousands of dollars donated to the California Republican Party … it’s time to #BoycottInNOut — let Trump and his cronies support these creeps … perhaps animal style!” The Animal Style burger at In-N-Out includes mustard and pickles, extra special sauce and grilled onions.

Mr. Bauman’s tweet prompted reaction from both sides. On Friday, Antonio Sabáto Jr., a Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives, joined the fray, tweeting that he had bought a burger to support the chain.

What does this mean for In-N-Out Burger?

Not much so far. There is no official boycott campaign from the Democratic Party, said John Vigna, the spokesman for the California Democratic Party. He said that Mr. Bauman’s stance was a personal one.

In-N-Out is a private company and does not disclose its sales.

There is little evidence that political beliefs and contributions hurt businesses in a meaningful way, said Nick Setyan, an analyst at Wedbush, a financial firm focused on the restaurant sector.

“These tend to be passing fantasies,” Mr. Setyan said. “For every liberal that may not go to Carl’s Jr. or an In-N-Out or Chick-fil-A there’s probably a conservative that will go an extra time to support that company.”

Has In-N-Out always supported the G.O.P.?

The company said it had made equal contributions to both Democratic and Republican political action committees in California.

“While it is unfortunate that our contributions to support both political parties in California has caused concern with some groups, we believe that bipartisan support is a fair and consistent approach that best serves the interests of our company and all of our Customers,” Arnie Wensinger, the executive vice president, said in a statement.

The conservative leanings of the company are no secret, said Stacy Perman, the author of “In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules.” Rich Snyder, one of the founders’ sons who ran the company until his death in 1993, was a well-known G.O.P. supporter, and this episode is unlikely to make a dent in business, Ms. Perman said.

“They have a surprisingly diverse fan base politically across the spectrum,” she said. “They have their truck at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party.” Ms. Perman also noted that the company has “weathered economic shifts and personal tragedy, and they’re still pretty strong.”

Founded in 1948 by Harry and Esther Snyder in Baldwin Park, Calif, In-N-Out was known for making freshly prepared burgers long before the recent wave of fast-casual food pushed other corporations into making their menus healthier and fresher. It is also known for the Bible verses on its packaging. It is now run by Lynsi Snyder, the founders’ granddaughter, who was sued by the company’s vice president in 2006 for trying to seize control of the company.

What does it mean for other businesses?

Companies are increasingly having to grapple with political issues.

• Hudson’s Bay pulled the Ivanka Trump fashion brand from its stores after being targeted by several campaigns urging shoppers to stay away from retailers offering Trump family merchandise. Ms. Trump said she was shutting down the brand in July, saying that she wanted to focus on her work in her father’s administration.

• Chick-fil-A has come under fire because the family that owns it has donated to organizations fighting same-sex marriage.

• Starbucks faced calls for a boycott after getting rid of traditional Christmas images on its holiday cups.

• Companies including the Avis Budget Group, Delta Air Lines, Hertz and United Airlines cut their ties with the National Rifle Association after coming under criticism for links to the organization in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

• New Balance had to make a statement saying that it did “not tolerate bigotry or hate in any form” after comments from Matt LeBretton, the vice president for communications, attracted support from white supremacists and prompted consumers to share images of the company’s shoes being burned or thrown in the trash.

It is not just consumers calling for companies to take a stand — investors are increasingly doing it too. BlackRock, the largest investor in the world, said that if companies want the firm’s support, they must make “a positive contribution to society.” As a result of “governments failing to prepare for the future,” society has been “turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges,” Laurence D. Fink, a BlackRock founder and its chief executive, wrote in a letter.

It is difficult to measure the effects of calls for boycotts, but people have noticed that executives are taking a political stand more often. A recent survey by the public relations firm Weber Shandwick showed that people are increasingly aware of activism by chief executives, and more than a third view it favorably.

Follow Amie Tsang and Tiffany Hsu on Twitter: @amietsang and @tiffkhsu.

Tiffany Hsu contributed reporting.

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