American fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger will tomorrow hold a pop-up store in Auckland - a signal the company could be interested in the New Zealand market.
Retail analyst Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group, thinks this could be a case of the company "testing the market" to see if there's enough demand to warrant a permanent store or stores.
And with a mature and established fast food market, New Zealand is no doubt an attractive market for the family-owned burger chain which has a cult-like following overseas, said Wilkinson.
This is not the first time In-N-Out Burger has held a pop-up store in this country, it has also done the same in Australia.
Tomorrow's one-day promotional event will run from 11am to 2pm at Portland Public House in the Auckland suburb of Kingsland.
The chain is promising to serve its popular "Animal style", "double double" and "protein style" burgers.
"For those who have not yet experienced In-N-Out Burger, be sure to come and check us out at this special promotional event," the burger joint said in a local advertisement.
"It's quite an interesting strategy that these kinds of companies use," Wilkinson said.
"We know that brands like In-N-Out and Shake Shack are hugely aspirational in their markets, and [pop-ups] are a way of keeping the brand on radar with people and maintaining relevance in a market before they make the move."
In-N-Out Burger, which has been in business in since 1948, has been contacted for comment.
The chain with more than 300 stores in America opened its first in Baldwin Park in California. It has not yet franchised the brand.
The size of New Zealand's market was likely a reason for the pop-up and testing demand.
Wilkinson said he would not be surprised if the chain was already working on plans for a physical launch in New Zealand and if it opened its first store within one of the major retail developments under construction, including in either Commercial Bay or Sylvia Park's Galleria expansion.
Shake Shack and Five Guys were other American fast-food chains that he expected to launch in New Zealand over time.
"In-N-Out would be the kind of brand that any city would love to have, but particularly it will be a focus for some of these big destination centres whether it be 277 Broadway or Sylvia Park, it's the type of brand that these centres would love to attract."
In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack would attract shoppers to these shopping centres, he said, and would be considered big wins by the centre operators.
Wilkinson's pick is that In-N-Out could open its first New Zealand store within the Commercial Bay development in downtown Auckland, scheduled to open later this year.
"Commercial Bay will pull some rabbits out of a hat for their opening, so I wouldn't underestimate the fact that we might see something quite unique in their food offer. They are hungry for those aspirational brands that will bring a wider demographic to the centre."