Thatís it, International House of Pancakes? Thatís the best you can do? You announce last week that you are mysteriously changing your name from IHOP to IHOb, and every pancake eater in the land gets busy.
Sample coy tweet: "Dear Internet, we abbreciate your batience. Now letís see who guessed right. B-hold!!!!! #IHOb"
It must be breakfast, right? Or brunch? No, wait, could it be bacon? Everyone loves bacon. Even Chiquita got into the speculation: could totes be bananas, IHOP moves a whole lot of bananas, and International House of Bananas has a jaunty ring to it.
And then today, the big reveal.
The "b" stands for Ö burgers?
Itís really just a promotion, not permanent. Only some of the 1,800 stores are changing out their signs (the "ob" portion looking disconcertingly like the logo for the tampon brand.) And itís not a pancake-ectomy; the menu isnít excising breakfast standbys to make way for hamburgers. But with the rebranding, they are releasing seven "Ultimate Steakburgers," an effort to attract new customers and to make this 1958 long-timer an all-day affair, as is its younger sibling Applebeeís (both are owned by Dine Brands).
This pancake flap fell flat.
Yes, a restaurant known for breakfast has a hard time filling seats for lunch and dinner. And yes again, burgers are the countryís most-consumed restaurant entree (for the record, IHOP has always offered burgers, just never with a logo-worthy emphasis).
But the burger stuff is a red herring.
This is about the changing role of pancakes in our lives. When was the last time you saw a Little League pancake breakfast? Paleo dieters, keto proponents, gluten-free-ers and carbophobes have all contributed to the irrelevance of pancakes. Even up-with-carbs folks donít feel like a short stack every day. Itís a once-in-a-while indulgence at best, especially when doused in IHOPís signature butter pecan syrup (containing neither butter nor pecans but a whole lot of high fructose corn syrup).
And Iím going to say it. Millennials have killed napkins, bars of soap, golf and fabric softener. They are now gunning for pancakes. They like bougie flapjacks (lemon ricotta, yada yada), but when was the last time you saw a young adult march into IHOP and demand a Rooty Tooty Fresh ín Fruity?
To be fair, the marching seems like just as big a problem as the pancakes for millennials and Gen Z. Young diners are abandoning traditional casual chains, many of which have experienced recent declines in foot traffic (both Applebeeís and IHOP have announced plans to shutter a number of stores this year). Young consumers want mobile apps, delivery and takeout.
Have you ever had pancakes delivered? Donít.
IHOP has diligently invented a special pancake to-go box thatís vented and keeps accompaniments in a separate compartment so the flapjacks donít get gushy. But you know what travels just fine, either via UberEats or crammed into the footwell of the family Camry? Hamburgers. In IHOP, er, IHObís case, this might be a mushroom swiss or a Mega Monster (two patties, two slices of cheese, pickles, etc.), starting at $6.99.
It may only be one letter, and it may only be temporary, the long tail of the "p" becoming the crown of a "b." But itís flipping an American institution upside-down (think about it: the I, H and O are the same upside-down and right-side-up). At least for lots of Internet users on Monday, it didnít stack up. IHOP without pancakes front and center? That "b" is actually for betrayal.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.