Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

California transplants to Central Oregon have probably been pining for a local In-N-Out Burger since the migration trend started.

Cravings for the West Coast chain’s fresh-baked buns and ground beef are so strong that when a mysterious new drive-thru restaurant was under construction on SW Century Drive in 2018, the Summit High School rumor mill said it would be In-N-Out. (The restaurant turned out to be Life & Time, which is locally owned and offers healthier takes on the typical fast-food menu.)

Last month, The Bulletin asked readers which national or regional brands they would most like to see here, and In-N-Out Burger easily rose to the top of the list with 47% of 242 responses.

The survey, posted on our website and promoted through social media, is far from scientific. Respondents could make multiple selections. There’s no guarantee that people who responded live in Central Oregon. (We have a feeling they do live here, however, because several of them chose “Other” and elaborated with comments like this: “Make local habit. If you want those stores, move back to where you came from.”)

The survey results indicate at least some local consumer preferences. And they were a good excuse to reach out to corporate representatives and ask about their plans.

In-N-Out’s response was as encouraging for fans as it gets in the tight-lipped world of retail real estate:

“We grow pretty slowly here at In-N-Out and, while we are always looking for new opportunities and potential locations, we are not currently working on a specific site in Bend,” Carl Arena, vice president for real estate and development, wrote in an email. “That said, our real estate team is active in Oregon as we do hope to add restaurants there in the future.”

Here are the remaining top nine results of our survey.

2nd: Nordstrom/Nordstrom Rack (35%)

Apart from a new store in Manhattan, the Seattle-based company is not exactly rushing to open full department stores. Its off-price Nordstrom Rack is a different story. Co-president Peter Nordstrom said in a conference call with investors that the company is still cautious, given the brick-and-mortar retailing environment, but will look for opportunities to open more Rack stores.

None are planned in Oregon this year, a spokeswoman said. The newest Nordstrom Rack in Oregon opened at Cascade Station near Portland International Airport in fall 2017.

3rd: Other brands (32%)

The Bulletin’s readers want everything from Aldi to Waffle House, as well as Designer Show Warehouse, The Container Store and Apple. But the most common response — after “none” and “shop local” — was Red Lobster. Red Lobster is not likely to take up residence in the High Desert anytime soon.

“Over the past year, we have been growing internationally, as well as making plans for a few new domestic openings later in 2019,” spokeswoman Nicole Bott said. Those few new Red Lobsters will be in Las Vegas, Staten Island and a third, undisclosed location.

4th: Panera Bread (28%)

Eating soup out of a bread bowl will probably continue to be a road-trip experience for Central Oregonians. Panera, which did not respond to The Bulletin’s inquiry, has undergone some changes in the past few years. In 2017, the formerly publicly traded company was acquired by an investor group of JAB Holding Co. Then it acquired Au Bon Pain Holding Co. The company said uniting with Au Bon Pain would “intensify” its growth in hospitals, universities and transportation centers.

5th (tied): Crate & Barrel (23%)

Crate & Barrel declined to provide any information about its current or future expansion. The Chicago-based company’s locations tend to be sparse. It has just one store in Oregon, which is in suburban Portland. This year Crate & Barrel opened a store in Livermore, California, and in 2017, it opened a store in Summerlin, Nevada.

5th (tied): Burgerville (23%)

Nope. The Vancouver, Washington, chain, which takes pride in sourcing fresh, in-season Northwest meat and produce, does not have any plans to expand, a spokeswoman said. Its last new location opened in 2016 in Corvallis.

WinCo (21%)

The Boise, Idaho-based grocery company has several stores in the mid-Willamette Valley and in March held a grand opening in Billings, Montana. Plans for Central Oregon, or even elsewhere in Oregon, are unclear. The company didn’t respond to an inquiry.

Pottery Barn (21%)

This home furnishings brand can be found in Eugene, Tigard, Portland, Boise and Spokane, Washington. But new Pottery Barn stores are not the top priority for its publicly traded parent company, Williams-Sonoma. In a recent investor conference call, executives said they want to grow the West Elm brand.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (21%)

With new owners, U.S. and international expansion is on the menu again for this Arizona-based chain. P.F. Chang’s was sold in March to TriArtisan Capital Partners LLC and Paulson & Co. “P.F. Chang’s loves Oregon and is always on the lookout for great locations,” spokeswoman Kelly Pascal Gould said in an email. “While Bend isn’t on our list for 2019, it may be in the future!”

Powell’s Books (21%)

Central Oregon readers will have to continue shopping at one of seven independently owned bookstores in the area. Or as one of our survey respondents said, “Local goods for the win!” Powell’s gets a lot of requests from around the state, but the company has no plans to expand, Chief Customer Officer Kim Sutton said. “We are plenty busy with the five Portland-area stores we operate.”

Note: Vote percentages were rounded. Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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