TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis knows a winning recipe when he sees one: He’s cooking up a plan to steal one of California’s iconic restaurant chains and bring it to the Sunshine State.
The state’s elected chief financial officer is trying to entice In-N-Out Burger to leave California for Florida.
The chain of 378 burger shops in the southwest and on the West Coast is out of sorts with a patchwork of local ordinances in California requiring indoor diners to show either proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test result.
It has seen its stores in the San Francisco area closed for failing to screen diners and fears a set of even stricter rules Los Angeles will impose next month.
“We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government,” said Arnie Wensinger, In-N-Out Burger’s business officer.
Wensinger said it is unreasonable and dangerous to require employees to “segregate customers” into groups who can and cannot be served.
Patronis, who owns and operates Florida’s legendary Captain Anderson Restaurant and Waterfront Market, wrote the president of In-N-Out Burger this month to offer sympathy about the difficulties an overreaching government creates for a restaurateur.
“As a small business owner who grew up in a family-owned restaurant, I know how hard it is to a profit on a good day, let alone when your own government is working to crush your business with overreaching mandates,” Patronis wrote to In-N-Out President Lynsi Snyder.
Patronis told Snyder he was so impressed and inspired by the courage In-N-Out Burger displayed in its opposition to the mandates that he had to write her immediately.
He explained Florida shares In-N-Out Burger’s opposition to mandates and how Gov. Ron DeSantis fined Leon County $3.5 million for imposing a vaccine mandate on its employees.
“Now that’s what I call leadership,” Patronis wrote.
He then extolled Florida’s pro-business climate and how it loves business owners, entrepreneurs and employees. He offered to help Snyder explore relocating In-N-Out Burger to Florida.
“As a member of the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, the business development arm of the state, I’d be honored to introduce you to our team and help you find the perfect place to start a new In-N-Out story here in Florida,” he said.
“My motto is ‘Florida is for Winners,’ and I have no doubt that your team can win here in the Sunshine State where we remain free and open for business.”
Snyder has yet to respond to Patronis’ overtures. But Patronis has taken his campaign to Facebook, where he posted excerpts of his pitch to Snyder. That post has drawn 800 likes, nearly 100 shares and dozens of comments.
James Call is a member of the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida Capital Bureau. Follow on him Twitter: @CallTallahassee