A large sign alongside U.S. Highway 97, hung on a chain-link fence Tuesday next to Kohl’s, proclaimed that In-N-Out Burger would be “here soon” in Bend. But an executive with the wildly popular California burger chain said the sign was fake, and In-N-Out has no current plans to open a Bend location.

“Unfortunately, the sign must have been placed there by a prankster, or someone suggesting that we will soon be opening a restaurant in Bend,” wrote Carl Arena, In-N-Out’s vice president of real estate and development, in an email Tuesday. “Our real estate team is always evaluating new sites, and we continue to look at opportunities in Oregon, however, we have not yet looked at any sites in Bend.”

Phyllis Cudworth, a marketing coordinator with the fast-food chain, said in a phone interview that sometimes people take In-N-Out’s signs from legitimate construction sites and hang them up in other locations.

Arena wrote that although there are no current plans to build a location in Bend, In-N-Out has its eye on Central Oregon for future development — maybe.

“We do believe that Bend is a great area and we do hope to be there in the future, but we are unable to speculate when or even if we will open a restaurant there,” he wrote.

“I’m sorry I can’t provide any more specifics, but right now it would just be premature speculation and I’d hate to make an incorrect guess.”

In-N-Out, based in Irvine, California, is notorious for its slow expansion. After being founded in the Los Angeles suburb of Baldwin Park in 1948, the family-owned company waited until 1992 to open a location outside of California, when it built a restaurant in Las Vegas, according to In-N-Out’s website. A large majority of the chain’s 351 locations are still in California.

However, in recent years, In-N-Out has crept northward, building its first Oregon restaurant in Medford in 2015. In-N-Out is currently building its northernmost location in Keizer, according to the Salem Statesman Journal.

Although Bend residents will still have to drive a few hours to satisfy their cravings for Double-Double burgers and animal-style fries, another popular — albeit more controversial — fast-food chain will soon arrive in the city. Chick-Fil-A is expected to open its location on Robal Lane, its first in Central Oregon, in early 2020.

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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