IHOP adds more virtual brands from Virtual Dining Concepts

The family-dining chain is putting NASCAR- and MLB-themed delivery brands in hundreds of locations for the first time and expanding Pardon My Cheesesteak.
NASCAR Refuel food and drink items
The NASCAR Refuel virtual brand is now available from hundreds of IHOPs. | Photo: Shutterstock

IHOP is doubling down on virtual brands and then some.

The 1,700-unit family-dining chain is expanding its partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC), adding two VDC brands to hundreds of locations for the first time and nearly doubling the presence of a third.

IHOP is now serving NASCAR Refuel Tenders & Burgers and MLB Ballpark Bites as delivery-only options out of more than 400 IHOP locations, with plans to add them to 130 more units soon. Existing partner Pardon My Cheesesteak is now available at more than 960 IHOPs, up from 500 before.

MLB Ballpark Bites LA Street Dog

The LA Street Dog from MLB Ballpark Bites. | Photo courtesy of Virtual Dining Concepts

The chain has continued to invest in virtual brands even as other full-service concepts have let them fall to the wayside. Because IHOP tends to be busiest in the morning, it relies on the auxiliary brands to keep business moving during slower dayparts. 

“Our work with VDC and the three brands we’re implementing will be a growth driver for our restaurants, specifically as we look at non-peak hours during lunch, dinner and late night,” said IHOP President Jay Johns in a statement. “These new brands are relevant for today’s consumer and perfect for our existing equipment and capabilities in our restaurants nationwide.”

NASCAR Refuel offers a menu of chicken tenders and burgers that ties into auto racing, with names like Talladega Tenders and the Daytona Firecracker Burger. MLB Ballpark Bites offers twists on the classic ballpark hot dog.

Pardon My Cheesesteak, meanwhile, is a collaboration with the Barstool Sports podcast Pardon My Take. It has been one of VDC’s most successful brands. 

Pardon My Cheesesteak food

Nearly 1,000 IHOPs are now slinging sandwiches like these from Pardon My Cheesesteak. | Photo courtesy of Virtual Dining Concepts

All three are available on third-party delivery apps and via their own branded websites.

In 2022, IHOP launched two virtual brands—Super Mega Dilla and Thrilled Cheese—created in collaboration with Nextbite. It is no longer using those brands, an IHOP spokesperson said.

For VDC, the agreement marks a new burst of growth after trimming its portfolio to 10 virtual brands recently.

“We are thrilled to join forces with IHOP, as this partnership presents an incredible opportunity to expand VDC's presence and serve our brands to new guests across the country,” said VDC co-founder Robbie Earl. “This partnership embodies our commitment to delivering exceptional food and experiences across the country with top restaurant chains.”

VDC’s other brands include MrBeast Burger, Man Vs Fries and Creators’ Kitchen as Seen on Tiktok.

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