Monday, June 11, 2012
Why Trader Joe’s coming to Dallas-Fort Worth is not another In-N-Out
Just because they're both California doesn't mean they're the same.
The opening on Friday of the first local Trader Joe's in Fort Worth brings for many a great excitement about a long-yearned-for potentially fantastic place to shop. But for some others, the arrival of another hyped-up California institution evokes fatigue and ennui, a reaction accompanied by sentiments that run somewhere along the line of: "Oh no -- not another In-N-Out?"
The tendency to lump the two together is understandable, since Trader Joe's and In-N-Out both come from California, and both have a cult following. But the resemblance stops there.
1. One is a greasy fast-food burger joint, and the other is a small grocery.
Lexicon of terms for the Trader Joe’s newbie
Grocery smackdown: Trader Joe’s vs. other markets in Dallas-Fort Worth
In-N-Out is a restaurant with an extremely limited menu: burgers, fries, milkshakes. Trader Joe's is a specialty food store, smaller than a regular grocery, with a high-quality selection that extends from the wine-and-cheese it began with in the '70s to include the pastries, dried fruit, nuts, health foods, and frozen goods it stocks today.
2. One represents a unique addition to the area, the other does not.
In-N-Out's product mix is not distinctive; you can get burger-and-fries at countless competitors. For one thing, Trader Joe's has private-label items sold only at Trader Joe's. Some of its other merchandise may possibly appear at other stores in Texas such as Whole Foods, Central Market, Cost Plus World Market, or its corporate cousin Aldi, but you can't find its particular assemblage of goods at any one of those stores. Trader Joe's will fill a unique niche.
3. One has healthy food, the other does not.
With the exception of a few household and toiletry items, most of what Trader Joe's sells is food, and most of that food is natural, cruelty-free, and with no artificial ingredients. Its lineup includes salads, whole-grain breads and pastas, vitamins, juices, hummus, and wraps.
At In-N-Out, a "double double with onion" has 670 calories and 41 grams of fat; an order of fries has 395 calories and 18 grams of fat; a chocolate shake has 590 calories and 29 grams of fat. Add up all those grams of fat and you get 88 grams -- 23 grams over your recommended daily allowance of 65 grams.
4. One has Bible passages, the other has Hawaiian shirts.
In-N-Out does stand out from its competitors in one regard: It's the only fast-food burger chain that prints Scripture references on its wrappers and milkshake cups.
No secret Jesus messages at TJ's -- just an upbeat, informal culture manifested in the unofficial company uniform: Hawaiian shirts.
In-N-Out and Trader Joe's do have a couple of things in common.
1. For starters, there is their careful strategy of openings -- one that makes them unavailable to everyone, and therefore more fervently desired.
2. They're also both notoriously reluctant to talk to the media.
3. Lastly, both usually have lousy parking lots. If you're doing anything but drive-through at In-N-Out, it's a pain in the neck. As for the Fort Worth TJ's, complaints about the parking situation are already cropping up on Facebook.
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