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IHOP plans another name change

Photograph: Shutterstock

A year after pulling off one of the restaurant industry’s most celebrated publicity stunts, the IHOP family chain is planning a reprise. The Dine Brands Global holding revealed on social media over the weekend that it will again tinker with its name, this time by changing what the “P” signifies. 

IHOP is an acronym for the brand’s old identity as the International House of Pancakes, a name that was dropped as the chain sought to build its lunch and dinner business. The franchisor provided no hints as to what the “P” may designate for as long as the identity tweak may run. But many of the chain’s recent promotions have focused on pancakes and riffs on the brand’s signature product. 

In February, for instance, IHOP introduced a pancake and pizza mashup called the Pancizza, essentially an oversized pancake served in a pizza box. The limited-time item, available in only four urban markets, was part of a push for more takeout and delivery orders.  During the first quarter, IHOP increased its off-premise business to 9% of total sales, a 4-point rise from the year-ago quarter.

The brand has also experimented with new versions of its all-you-can-eat pancakes special. It resurrected the offer, an IHOP marketing staple used to bolster traffic in midwinter, during Q1 at an a la carte price of $4.99. Guests could also opt for all-you-can-eat pancakes with certain omelets at lunch and dinner.

Headquarters provided no clues as to what the “P” might signify under the new promotion, an echo of the highly successful stunt the chain mounted last June to introduce a new line of burgers. In that stab for attention, IHOP announced with tongue firmly in cheek that the “P” was being changed to a “b.” The reality was that only one store changed its name, and the new moniker was used for only three weeks before the “b” was flipped back to a “P.” 

Yet the effort drew enough attention for IHOP to pronounce the tactic a fantastic success in its strategy of reaching out to millennials. The ploy drew 32 billion impressions and generated more than 18,000 media reports, according to a spokesperson. 

IHOP President Darren Rebelez told Restaurant Business at the time that 80% of the visitors to the chain’s website at the start of the promotion were not regular customers of the brand. He indicated at the Restaurant Leadership Conference in April that many of those unfamiliar visitors had been converted into IHOP fans.

Although the franchisor has not given any clues as to what the “P” may designate, social media users jumped on the announcement of the pending change to air their theories. The possibilities ranged from Pabst Blue Ribbon, the inexpensive beer that’s popular with millennials, to “president,” as in the possibility IHOP is joining the 21 candidates already vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Other guesses contended that the “P” stood for Purgers, pterodactyls, plant-based options, people (complete with a “Soylent Green” GIF), pizza, pasta and Pauly Shore, the comedian.

The big reveal is planned for June 3.


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