Imagine some of them were so extra-devoted to your brand that when you opened a new store, they'd camp out for days ahead of time, trying to get that coveted first spot.
We're not talking about a company selling the latest smartphone or other incredible technical milestone here, either. We're talking about hamburgers.
Specifically, we're talking about In-N-Out Burger, which opened its first two restaurants in Colorado recently, and saw miles-long lines at the drive-through, with a local sheriff taking to social media to warn customers away.
I mean, the lines were so long that some Colorado customers literally could have driven to one of In-N-Out's restaurants in Nevada and gotten served faster.
Now if you're a business leader, you might be asking yourself: Hmmm, I wonder how hard it would be to get an In-N-Out franchise?
I'm sorry to say it would be impossible, since the company is 100-percent privately owned and doesn't franchise its locations.
But as a close second, what if you could deconstruct some of what makes devotees of In-N-Out so passionate, and try to apply it to your own business?
That's what I'd call an opportunity.
Quick history, in case you live on the East Coast like me, or if you're just not all that into hamburgers. In-N-Out launched in California in 1948, a few years before Ray Kroc first got involved with McDonald's, and it followed a completely different model. No franchises, no going public, no pivoting to turn into a real estate company that mostly leases land to the people running its brand of restaurants.
Instead, the company stayed in the family of Harry and Esther Snyder. It's now majority owned by Lynsi Snyder-Ellingson, the 38-year-old only grandchild of the founders.
Reportedly, the average In-N-Out location is about twice as profitable as an average McDonald's.
And the company grew much more slowly, staying 100 percent in California for its first 44 years. Even now, In-N-Out is located mainly in the Southwest: California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Texas, and Oregon. And now Colorado.
Its fans are devoted. Even those who have relocated to other parts of the country. Every once in a while, someone can get a quick minute or two of social media virality by posting an "In-N-Out Coming Soon" sign in New York City, for example. Like these ones.
Now, we can't taste the food or feel the ambiance of In-N-Out in this article.
But in an interview two years ago, Snyder-Ellingson attributed part of the chain's success to the idea that it sticks closely to its basic menu items.
McDonald's and Burger King each has more than 80 entries on their menus, as Forbes points out, but In-N-Out only serves 15 different items.
"It's not [about] adding new products. Or thinking of the next bacon-wrapped this or that. We're making the same burger, the same fry," she said. "We're really picky and strategic. We're not going to compromise."
The company also has a reputation for being borderline obsessive. In-N-Out once shut down 37 of its restaurants for 24 hours because the wrong kind of buns were delivered.
I think there's also something big to say about employee loyalty.
There are no owner-operators at In-N-Out like Chick-fil-A, no franchises at McDonald's. Yet, the company seems to have some very loyal employees, rating No. 4 among the best places to work at Glassdoor, for example.
That's not No. 4 among restaurants; it's No. 4 among all employers.
And as I wrote in detail a while back, the average salary of an In-N-Out manager is over $160,000--a very high sum considering that the job is open to people who don't have a high school diploma.
That's about eight times as much as the average U.S. adult without a diploma earns, by the way. And more than the average salary of lawyers, software engineers, and architects in California.
Finally, there's something self-reinforcing, and even nostalgic and habit-forming, about the brand.
If you enjoy a good burger, you're living in a Golden Age--with regional chains like Five Guys, Whataburger, and Shake Shack, among others, branching out and expanding.
But perhaps there's something about the fact that In-N-Out doesn't have the same external financial pressures, and stubbornly refuses to expand as much as some of its customers want it to, that makes it successful.
"I like that we're sought after when someone's coming into town," Snyder-Ellingson said in an interview. "I like that we're unique. That we're not on every corner. You put us in every state and it takes away some of its luster."
I wrote a nonfiction book about the Iraq War called In a Time of War. One of the main characters was an Army lieutenant named Todd Byrant: A proud Californian who was known to friends for his devotion to In-N-Out.
He died in the war, sadly. If you go to his gravesite now at Section 60 in Arlington National Cemetery, you'll likely find that friends have left condiment packets and other mementos from In-N-Out.
This is despite the fact that the nearest In-N-Out is 2,000 miles away.
I don't think you can duplicate whatever In-N-Out does and put it into practice in your business just by reading one article.
But if I were trying to build customer loyalty that borders on obsession, it's one of the first places I'd look to copy.