The popular breakfast spot has been serving up extra-sweet pancakes—and other food, too—for over 50 years.
1. THE FOUNDER FIRST PEDDLED DELIVERY COFFEE.
After serving in the army as a young man, Al Lapin Jr. attended film school at USC, which launched a brief stint in television that included producing films on surviving atomic attacks for the Federal Civil Defense Administration. He made a major career switch when he decided to launch Coffee Time, a delivery coffee service in the L.A. area. Although the venture didn’t last long, he took his respect for caffeine with him when he launched the International House of Pancakes in 1958, which instituted a policy of keeping a full pot of coffee on every table.
2. THE ORIGINAL IHOP TOOK CUES FROM OTHER POPULAR CHAINS.
After perfecting his pancake recipe in his mother’s kitchen, Lapin and his brother Jerry were ready to open their first International House of Pancakes. For the original location, opened using $25,000, they chose a spot in Toluca Lake in Los Angeles County intentionally close to a Bob's Big Boy with the hopes of catching any customer overflow. And for aesthetics, they took a cue from Howard Johnson’s by adding an orange roof accent.
3. IT WASN’T CALLED "IHOP" FOR THE FIRST 15 YEARS.
In 1973, a marketing program introduced the acronym that has all but supplanted the full name.
4. IN THE 1980s, ALL THE EXISTING RESTAURANTS WERE RENOVATED.
Starting in 1983, the then-bloated company restructured itself, closing all the unprofitable locations and renovating those that remained. The updates included muting the décor, adding more seating (especially two-tops), and splitting the kitchen in two. All the kitchens were redesigned to feature two identical mini kitchens so that during slow stretches, one of them could be closed to cut down on operating costs.
5. …BUT OVENS WEREN’T INCLUDED IN THE RENOVATION.
Part of the early ‘80s plan to revitalize IHOP included expanding the lunch and dinner offerings, which had long been a weak spot for the company. However, to keep costs low, then-CEO Richard K. Herzer dictated that all menu additions would have to be cook-able using only existing kitchen equipment—which didn’t include ovens at any of the locations.
6. IHOP OWNS APPLEBEE’S.
In 2007, IHOP Corp. purchased Applebee's International Inc. for $2.04 billion. At the time, the two brands combined to have more than 3250 restaurants, making IHOP the then-largest full-service restaurant company anywhere in the world.
7. NEW YORK CITY’S IHOP HAD A BACON-ODOR ISSUE.
In 2011, New York City’s East Village got its very own IHOP. Before it even opened, owners were worried about what the city that never sleeps would do in the presence of 24-hour access to pancakes, so they hired a late-night bouncer. But almost immediately after the restaurant opened, neighbors complained that the issue wasn’t rowdy drunks in search of a breakfast fix, it was the bacon smell. Nearby residents reported that they had to move to escape the nauseating scent of perpetual pork fat. Just eight months after it opened, IHOP announced plans to install a $42,000 odor-killing machine known as the "smog-hog."
8. SCIENCE SAYS KANSAS ACTUALLY IS FLATTER THAN AN IHOP PANCAKE.
In at least one instance, IHOP’s pancakes have proven scientifically useful. In 2003, a pair of scientists from Southwest Texas State University and Arizona State University set out to settle once and for all whether or not Kansas is, as the saying goes, “flatter than a pancake.” Using a flapjack from IHOP and a confocal laser microscope, they mapped the topography of a pancake and compared the relative change in elevation to data for Kansas from the U.S. Geological Survey. It turns out, not only is Kansas—and many other states—much flatter than an IHOP pancake, an IHOP pancake isn’t all that flat.
"People just look down at their pancake," one of the scientists said. "They don't look at it carefully. If you were an ant climbing, it would be incredibly difficult to navigate. There are bubbles and ridges, and it usually bulges in the middle. I'm not arguing it's a mountain, but it's not a piece of paper either."
9. IHOP GOT CUSTOMERS TO SPEND MORE BY UPDATING THEIR MENU.
In 2013, IHOP’s menu got a makeover courtesy of an unnamed "expert in menu creative development." The old version, it turned out, had too many words and not enough pizzazz. The company credits color-coding, clearly divided sections, and lots of mouth-watering photos for a 3.6 percent increase in same-store sales in the months following the design update.
10. IHOP’S TWITTER HAS A VERY INTENTIONAL VOICE—THAT SOMETIMES BACKFIRES.
IHOP has occasionally come under fire for what some deem as insensitive tweets, but the breakfast brand has been largely finding success with their attempts to reach a younger demographic. Their Twitter adopted the voice of a "teenage hip-hop fan," as Adweek called it, in 2014, earning over 26,000 retweets for such sentiments as "Pancakes on fleek" and "dat stack tho." And in 2015, they updated their logo for the first time in over 20 years to include a smiling face that references emoticons.
11. VERMONT’S IHOP GETS SPECIAL TREATMENT.
Vermont was the final state to add an IHOP location and when they finally did, in 2009, the general manager insisted on special accommodations. In addition to the many artificially-flavored corn syrups characteristic of IHOP offerings (with such flavors as boysenberry and blueberry), Vermont’s restaurant included real maple syrup. For an extra 99 cents, customers can top their International pancakes with the local sweet stuff—making them the only location out of IHOP’s then-1400 restaurants to offer real syrup.