Nick Schulz left little to chance Thursday in his quest to be the first person served at Santa Rosa's new In-N-Out Burger.
The patty-loving real estate agent parked his Subaru at the drive-through lane Wednesday and returned to the vehicle an hour before the grand opening Thursday morning, his pole position secured.
A regular at the Rohnert Park In-N-Out, the 60-year-old had urged the burger chain to come to Santa Rosa for years, even praying with his wife — a former missionary like himself — that the city would grant the site approval.
In-N-Out Burger Opens In Santa Rosa
"It's a company that knows exactly what they're doing. They have a target and they hit it every time," Schulz said. "I've never had a bad meal at an In-N-Out."
Such zeal for a fast-food restaurant would generally be a sure sign to get a life. But In-N-Outs seems to widely inspire such devotion.
Certainly the new location near the corner of Steele Lane and County Center Drive was besieged with customers at lunchtime Thursday.
The drive-through line snaked more than 30-vehicles long onto the street. In-N-Out employees acted as traffic cops for incoming cars. And inside the restaurant, dozens of white-clad workers whirled behind the counter keeping up with a line stretching out the door.
Lindsay Van Midde, wearing a In-N-Out paper hat, was delighted that the restaurant she fell in love with on childhood trips to Southern California was now a quick walk from her office.
"I only work six minutes away," she said, saying her co-workers had been anticipating the opening for months.
Such fans have elite company. In-N-Out's devotees have included gourmets like Julia Child and Thomas Keller, the chef behind Napa's uber-expensive French Laundry, said Stacy Perman, author of "In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules."