This Is Why IHOP Is Disappearing Across The Country

This Is Why IHOP Is Disappearing Across The Country

November 12, 2019 100 By William Morgan


It wasn’t so long ago that IHOP dominated
the breakfast landscape, but now many of them are closing. So what happened to the pancake king? Here are all the obstacles facing what used
to be one of America’s most popular diners. Many of IHOP’s woes are common in the casual
dining sector. Fast-casual spots like Shake Shack and Chipotle
have been the darlings of the restaurant industry lately, and they’re the only sector in the
biz that’s seen an increase in foot traffic over the last five years. These days, when people sit down to place
an order, they tend to want to eat local. Between 2017 and 2020, independent restaurants
and small chains are expected to grow at a rate of four to five percent, double the rate
of major chains. That leaves casual dining chains and fast
food joints battling for a shrinking customer base. “IHOP’s newest waffles are so full of great
stuff, they’re Waffle-licious. introducing Waffle-icious Waffles only at
IHOP.” “Nobody else but IHOP would think of something
like this.” Basically, what’s trendy is changing – and
it no longer includes IHOP. When it comes to dieting, carbs are often
considered the enemy. “IHOP has new Cheesecake Stuffed French Toast,
made with creamy cheesecake topped with apples and toffee.” People on the Keto diet or the Whole30 diet
won’t be eating at a restaurant known for pancakes and waffles, and neither will vegans
or vegetarians. While it’s possible to eat vegan at IHOP,
you’ll mostly be stuck with simple sides like fruit cups and hash browns – without the cheese
and sour cream, of course. These struggles aren’t unique to IHOP: Most
chains aren’t particularly friendly to strict diets… but most chains aren’t known for
giving out free pancakes on your birthday, either. Compared to health-centric restaurants like
Sweetgreen, it’s gonna be super-tough for IHOP to compete for the dieter’s dollar. “The announcement everybody’s been waiting
for. The International House of Pancakes changing
its name.” In June 2018, IHOP kicked off an elaborate
publicity stunt by declaring that they were changing their name to IHOb. “Why am I on this roof? Because IHOP has gone from pancake and pancakes
to burger and burgers.” The stunt was an attempt to address the fact
that many IHOP customers didn’t realize the chain served lunch and dinner. Well, it certainly succeeded in getting people’s
attention. “When I say IHOb it makes me do that, and
then it makes me put the ‘buh,’ and then I’m like, I don’t like that.” Fast-food chains like Wendy’s wasted no time
mocking the chain in several choice tweets, including: “Remember when you were like 7 and thought
changing your name to Thunder BearSword would be super cool?” Burger King got in on the ridicule, too. “Burger King switched its Twitter name to
Pancake King as a way of poking fun.” Ultimately, it’s hard to say whether IHOP’s
stunt did anything other than annoy people. They claim they sold four times as many burgers
following the stunt, but location data tracking didn’t point to an increase in visits. In fact, it found a slight drop among women. There were even conspiracy theories that suggested
IHOb was a failed rebrand. [Coughing] “Oh, no!” Being able to order online to grab your food
and go has been a key driver of growth for restaurants in recent years. Just look at how well Starbucks did with its
app, something that other chains like Dunkin’ Donuts quickly imitated. Sit-down restaurants live and die on quick
table turnover and are increasingly a curbside takeout business, so you’d think the appeal
would be obvious for IHOP, especially with its presence at highway exits. Yet, IHOP only rolled out online ordering
in late 2017, making it the last to arrive at a party that competitors like Chili’s and
TGI Friday’s were already ruling. Oddly, IHOP’s sister brand Applebee’s rolled
out their new app nearly a year before. Although they aren’t the only chain that’s
behind the curve here, IHOP started the race way behind competitors, and it’s not clear
if they’ll be able to catch up. Amazon is often accused of economic murder,
but what it’s doing to IHOP is entirely by accident. Online shopping is growing far faster than
traditional retail. “We’re growing so fast that we need talented
people to come in and make an impact on day one.” More and more people are ordering online and
staying away from the mall, even on shopping holidays like Black Friday. It’s great that there are fewer brawls over
cheap TVs, but it’s ultimately bad for restaurants. Foot traffic is the lifeblood of all brick-and-mortar
retail, but that’s particularly the case for restaurants in and around malls. Food is one of the most common impulse purchases,
so if customers aren’t in front of the pancakes, they’re not going to start buying them. Unfortunately, the only way to “solve” lower
foot traffic is to start hiking up prices, a strategy that may work in the short term. But you can only expect people to pay so much
for pancakes. Perhaps a few more shameless movie tie-ins
are in order.