As you order your Double-Double at In-N-Out, your eyes divert to a woman with bright blue eye shadow and an infectious smile. Meet Barbie Fowler, an ambitious lady who has worked for the In-N-Out company for nearly 17 years.
Barbie grew up with eight other siblings in Bokoshe, Okla. in 1942. Years later, Barbie settled down and had a beautiful baby boy.
She decided to move to California for two important reasons: to help her son raise his four beautiful kids and get away from her divorce. Barbie remembers the day when her son told her he would take her to the “best hamburger place in the world: In-N-Out.”
The moment she stepped in, she knew she was in heaven. Barbie’s son ordered her very first In-N-Out cheeseburger with onions, fries and an ice-cold soft drink. As she took her first bite, she could taste the quality, the fluffy buns and the melted cheese on top of well-cooked beef.
Barbie remembers seeing the kitchen area and the fast movement of all of the workers. They were so efficient and happy when they prepared meals for customers. She loved the way the employees interacted with their customers and the upbeat environment. It was there that Barbie came to a sudden realization: she wanted to work at In-N-Out.
Her son looked at her in disbelief at first, but later encouraged her to get an application. That’s precisely what Barbie did and, the next day, she got a call back and has been loyal to In-N-Out ever since.
Barbie eats at In-N-Out several times during the week. She currently works at the In-N-Out located in University Town Center in Irvine.
When she first started working at In-N-Out in Foothill Ranch in 1995, she was one of the oldest workers. Yet, her co-workers never treated her differently. “I was ageless to them,” she says. One of her most memorable moments at In-N-Out was being invited to a Halloween party her manager hosted. She wore a beautiful purple velvet dress, with shiny heels, and multi-colored streamers all over her hair. From then on, she became known as “Barbie.” In 1997, Barbie moved to Michigan for a brief period of time and continued working at In-N-Out during the winter and summer. She later came back to sunny California, and was ready to greet hungry Californians.
Customers noticed Barbie’s attention to detail and the way she kept In-N-Out so spic and span. People started complimenting and asking her to even clean their homes — and that’s exactly what she did.
In-N-Out definitely stays true to its motto: “Quality you can taste.” According to Barbie, each employee is given a different task. The potatoes are hand-diced, the lettuce is hand-leafed, and nothing is frozen — everything is fresh. It takes a long time to prepare the food, but that’s what makes In-N-Out stand out from other places.
The current owner of In-N-Out, Lynsi Martinez, also recently paid a special visit to personally meet Barbie at In-N-Out. For Barbie, it was an emotional moment and one that she will remember for the rest of her life. Since Barbie was with In-N-Out since the ’90s, she’s seen the tremendous transformations the company has gone through. In the beginning, when demand was low, things at the restaurant worked at a slower rate. People had more time to relax and enjoy the family-oriented atmosphere.
Even though In-N-Out still very much remains a place where soccer moms, college students, bus drivers and postal service workers gather, it has increased its professionalism up a notch to keep up with the fast-pace demand for food. Even the food preparation has significantly changed to increase efficiency. “In the past, we had towels to shake out the excess oil from the french fries,” Barbie says. “We changed towels quite often so we would have high-grade french fries. Now we have the baskets, and automatic machinery.”
Aside from In-N-Out, Barbie loves spending time with her brothers and sisters as well as her grandkids and son. She attends soccer games, goes on vacations, shops at T.J. Maxx and Nordstrom Rack, gets her nails done and does anything any other 68-year-old grandmother would do. In fact, last weekend, Barbie planned a trip to Carlsbad with her four sisters.
Despite living in different states, Barbie loves planning social gatherings, eating a huge bucket of Coldstone Butter Pecan ice cream, going to the beach and laughing with her sisters. The sisters call themselves “Sisterhood Ya-Ya,” or Ya-Ya, for short (a la “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”).
“I eat In-N-Out every day that I’m at work and even on days that I’m not at work. I never get tired of it,” Barbie says.
There are too many memories for Barbie to remember. But the biggest one for her is seeing a baby in a mother’s arms and then seeing that same baby as a toddler peeking over the edge of the counter at In-N-Out months later. For Barbie, In-N-Out has a historical presence. Generations of families have come together to eat and enjoy a nice meal with their families.
Barbie will also have the unique opportunity to train new employees at two new In-N-Out openings in Texas.
Barbie doesn’t plan on leaving In-N-Out anytime soon. She smiles with her bright blue eye shadow and her pink shirt while leaving with some wise words: “I think I’ll work as long as they’ll let me. That’s my goal.”
Filed Under: Features