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‘CaliBurger’ Brings In-N-Out Copycat To California

CaliBurger, a knock-off of the popular California-based In-N-Out Burger, is now opening its first California outlet in Pasadena after starting in China.

CaliBurger has edged its competitors with additions like chicken burgers, boozy shakes, a computer games and even “golden” Western models in its branding.

But CaliBurger isn’t quite a California original, having opening its first outlet in Shanghai, China in January 2012, according to a 2012 report in the Los Angeles Times.

CaliBurger’s owners are Americans: Jonathan Wong, an ex-In-N-Out store manager and one of those behind the CaliBurger formula, freely admitted in 2012 that the copycat chain’s “model was In-N-Out.”

Originally, CaliBurger copied menu item names from In-N-Out, such as “animal style” and the famous “double-double,” and also used cups with an iconic palm tree print. In-N-Out sued CaliBurger in U.S. District Court for trademark infringement and counterfeiting, according to the Times. The new outlet agreed to adjust its menu and decor, leaving In-N-Out to call the issue “resolved.”

Just this month, In-N-Out was named Burger Restaurant of the Year in a Harris Poll. But capitalizing off of the popular burger joint has served CaliBurger well as it has expanded from China to Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

U.S. locations can be found in Seattle, Washington, Columbia, Maryland and now Pasadena, California.

Lance Sterling, owner of the Pasadena franchise, cited the statewide minimum wage raise to $15 an hour as part of his decision to go with CaliBurger as a business decision over other options.

Southern California public radio station KPCC reported Sterling as saying: “I just believe with the minimum wage going through at $15 an hour, the days of waitress and waiter restaurants is pretty much gone.”

Clarification: The company opened its first location in China, but is in fact a California-based corporation. The article has been updated to reflect that.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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