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In-N-Out culture serves up friendships
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In-N-Out workers Tasheckka Hanible and Keke Hicks have worked for In-N-Out Burger while going to college. Hanible is about to get her Master’s in Psychology and Keke will soon graduate with her Bachelor of Science degree. - photo by GLENN KAHL
It was a taste of Americana at an early morning Yule get-together of “real friends” who work together, like each other, and perform as a team despite the stress and public pressures they face on a daily basis.

In an effort to see that their staffers feel appreciated for their professionalism, the Manteca In-N-Out burger treated nearly 40 of the guys and gals to a full-course breakfast at 7:30 Wednesday morning before the store opened for business.

There was a strong sense of harmony between the workers in their teens and early 20s. They had been hired with character in mind and that unique character is paramount in all of them.

Later as the staff breakfast began to wind down everyone was in for a surprise. They would be given either and MP-3 or an MP-4 for their year’s service. Last year they were given a cell phone hands-free device that hopefully would keep them safe.

It’s the workers who make it all happen at In-N-Out complete with contagious smiles.  Their efficiency is demanded – and they deliver.  Many of the guys’ mothers would surely be impressed and in awe to watch how they all pick up the slack for each other.

While the business doesn’t open until 10:30 there were several cooks who arrived at 5 a.m. to get the breakfast menu put together and readied for their peers scheduled to arrive on site at 7:30.

Crystal Miller and Sarah Kroeze didn’t get to bed until after 2:30 in the morning after they closed up shop, but they made it to the breakfast.  Crystal brought her 2-year-old daughter Kylie with her.  Sarah was also one of the early ones who helped prepare the elaborate offerings along with Virginia Nunoz who also closed for the night Tuesday, a few short hours before.

Manager Caleb Solomon did his best to see that it all came together for his team.  His wife Cherie set up her special corner where she was turning out Belgian waffles.

Others that joined forces to make the special event happen were Matt Hutchings and Ernesto Landeres.   

Stephanie Hoftiezer and Sarah Kroeze were together on the grill – normally the scene for hamburgers and buns – turning out scrambled eggs and French toast shortly after 7 a.m. for their fellow staffers.

The menu included tortillas and steak that was used to create breakfast burritos, hash brown paddies, bacon, sausage, cantaloupe, diced oranges, blueberries, blackberries, milk and juices.

What followed was an impressive room filled with close friends – talking and laughing about their days together – many probably having a bigger breakfast than they had enjoyed in the past year.  The number of workers in the room reflected more than 100 years of service.

But before they started to eat their manager asked that they bow their heads while he gave a blessing for the food they had in front of them and for Christmas and the fellowship they were enjoying being together.  

It was an unusual scene in today’s corporate world where folks are worried about being politically correct. Manager Caleb Solomon was quick to note it wasn’t a problem, not something he was ashamed to have done with his crew.

In fact, the managers’ meetings held on a regular schedule are always opened with a prayer throughout the system, he said.  Divisional manager Denny Klein walked through the door wishing everyone a Merry Christmas – saying this was one of a half dozen breakfast stops for him in his area.

Laiza Robles was one of the last to walk into the dining room of the shuttered restaurant.  In greeting her at the door I had to know why she was there from her perspective.    She put her feeling right out front when she said, “I am here to have breakfast and to see my friends.  I love those people!”

There are two other close friends at the store who are both getting their college degrees.  One her master’s in Psychology and the other a Bachelor of Science degree.

Tasheckka Hanible hopes to enter law enforcement career as a profiler after she graduates.  She has worked at In-N-Out for some four years during her college days.  In her off hours she has been working with children at a group home.  

Hicks moved to Emeryville to be closer to her college in the Bay Area.  She commutes to Manteca every weekend to work at least part time at her old job saying she has to be around the friendships she has developed at work.

Bobbie Stephenson and Leo Garcia are no different from the others at In-N-Out valuing the friendships they have developed.   Asking Stephenson if the many people he now calls friends were there for him before he joined the staff – he said no, that he had met them all at work.