Each week, I find myself helplessly drawn to my local In-N-Out where my order is standard: No. 1, no onions, add pickle and mustard, a Lemon-Up (sometimes Dr. Pepper). On some days, things get crazy and I'll add chopped chilies to my Double Double, but mostly, I ask for yellow peppers on the side, without question. My favorite part of the meal is taking a bite of the yellow banana pepper, which I call chilies, then squeezing the juice all over every bite of my Double Double and fries.
Everything was going fine, until the other night.
"You want any ketchup?" A young woman asked as I pulled up to the drive-thru window.
"Yes, can I get chilies too, please," I replied.
"Sorry, but we're out of chilies," she responded.
I informed the employee that this was now the second time in two weeks that I asked for chilies and was told they were out.
"What's going on with the chilies," I asked.
What she told me was the most earth-shattering news I had heard in 2016.
The In-N-Out employee explained that California is experiencing a shortage in yellow banana pepper crops, citing that this year's demand exceeded the supply. She also said that it's affecting multiple locations, however, the next harvest is expected to come in early summer.
On Thursday, I called In-N-Out's Southern California-based corporate headquarters to inquire about the shortage. Amy, the corporate employee I spoke with, would not tell me who In-N-Out's supplier of yellow peppers was, but referred to the current situation as, "an industry-wide pepper shortage."
Amy added that the "shortage" is not yet affecting the chopped chilies that can be added to fries or burgers, but if you want a side-order of whole yellow banana peppers, that's when the pepper rationing gets real.
A memo from In-N-Out, dated for May 9 and addressed to its California stores, was posted on Twitter May 15. The memo directs In-N-Out employees to keep, "chilies away from ketchup stations," and to serve guests only two chilies in a "souffle cup per request."
Even though chilies are more of a "secret menu" item, people still started FREAKING OUT once they discovered that In-N-Out's delicious chilies probably wouldn't be available any time soon. At least, "hopefully sometime in July," according to the memo.
Twitter user @BABYjar__ was so upset, she started tweeting in both English and Spanish. Orale.
I can't believe in n out has legit been out of chilies for like 1 week now ? se pasan de lansa— sahara angeles (@BABYjar___) May 23, 2016
@_Marriisol was pretty upset too and demanded an explanation.
Look at all those question marks!
Amy at corporate said that this WAS NOT SPECIFIC to In-N-Out, only. It's affecting many in the restaurant industry and she was right. In April, Subway restaurants began to experience a shortage in peppers as well, and customers began complaining on Facebook.
Subway claims weather was to blame for their shortage in supply.
Fellow Foodbeast staff writer, Peter Pham and myself went to an In-N-Out Burger located on the corner of Bristol Ave. and W. McAurthur Blvd. in Santa Ana, Calif. to try our luck again, but again, bad news as the employee told us:
"We have them today, but if you come back tomorrow, we might not have them," she said. "It's not affecting the chopped chilies on the burgers, but the sides. We're only getting very small amounts."
The chilies they did have at the Santa Ana location did not look like the traditional yellow banana pepper that any In-N-Out lover would recognize instantly. Take a look.
For all you In-N-Out lovers out there, with the yellow pepper shortage in effect, our advice to you is: Get it while it's hot.