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11 Carb-Loaded Facts About IHOP

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.

The IHOP blue roof then & now! #ThrowbackThursday

Posted by IHOP on Thursday, August 29, 2013

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.  

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13 Secrets of Halloween Costume Designers
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iStock

For consumers, Halloween may be all about scares, but for businesses, it’s all about profits. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $9.1 billion this year on spooky goods, including a record $3.4 billion on costumes. “It’s an opportunity to be something you’re not the other 364 days of the year,” Jonathan Weeks, CEO of Costumeish.com, tells Mental Floss. “It feels like anything goes.”

To get a better sense of what goes into those lurid, funny, and occasionally outrageous disguises, we spoke to a number of designers who are constantly trying to react to an evolving seasonal market. Here’s what we learned about what sells, what doesn’t, and why adding a “sexy” adjective to a costume doesn’t always work.

1. SOME COSTUMES ARE JUST TOO OUTRAGEOUS FOR RETAIL

A woman models a scary nun costume for Halloween
iStock

For kids, Halloween is a time to look adorable in exchange for candy. For adults, it’s a time to push the envelope. Sometimes that means provocative, revealing costumes; other times, it means going for shock value. “You get looks at a party dressed as an Ebola worker,” Weeks says. “We have pregnant nun costumes, baby cigarette costumes.” The catch: You won’t be finding these at Walmart. “They’re meant for online, not Spencer’s or Party City.”

2. … BUT THERE ARE SOME LINES THEY WON’T CROSS.

Homeowners are scared by trick-or-treaters on Halloween
iStock

Although Halloween is the one day of the year people can deploy a dark sense of humor without inviting personal or professional disaster, some costume makers draw their own line when it comes to how far to exceed the boundaries of good taste. “We’ve never done a child pimp costume, but someone else has,” says Robert Berman, co-founder of Rasta Imposta, a business that broke into the industry on the strength of their fake dreadlock wig in 1992. Weeks says some questionable ideas that have been brought to the discussion table have stayed there. “There’s no toddler KKK costume or baby Nazi costume,” he says. “There is a line.”

3. THEY CAN DESIGN AND PRODUCE A COSTUME IN A MATTER OF DAYS.

A man models a costume in front of a mirror
Rob Stothard/Getty Images

A lot of costume interest comes from what’s been making headlines in the fall: Costumers have to be ready to meet that demand. “We’re pretty good at being able to react quickly,” says Pilar Quintana, vice-president of merchandising for Yandy.com. “Something happening in April may not be strong enough to stick around for Halloween.”

Because the mail-order site has in-house models and isn’t beholden to approval from big box vendors, Quintana can design and photograph a costume so it’s available within 72 hours. If it's more elaborate, it can take a little longer: Both Yandy and Weeks had costumes inspired by the Cecil the Lion story that broke in July 2015 (in which a trophy hunter from Minnesota killed an African lion) on their sites in a matter of weeks.

4. BEYONCE CAN HELP MOVE STALE INVENTORY.

A screen shot from Formation, a music video featuring Beyonce
beyonceVEVO, YouTube

Extravagant custom tailoring jobs aside, Halloween costumes are a business of instant demand and instant gratification—inventory needs to be plentiful in order to fill the deluge of orders that come in a short frame of time. If a business miscalculates the popularity of a given theme, they might be stuck with overstock until they can find a better idea to hang on it. “Last year, we had 400 or 500 Zorro costumes that we couldn’t sell for $10,” Weeks says. “It had a big black hat that came with it, and I thought, ‘That looks familiar.’ It turned out it looked a lot like the one Beyonce wore in her ‘Lemonade’ video.” Remarketed as a "Formation" hat for Beyonce cosplayers, Weeks moved his stock.

5. WOMEN DON’T USUALLY WEAR MASKS.

A man tries on a Joker mask at a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Curiously, there’s a large gender gap when it comes to the sculpted latex monster masks offered by Halloween vendors: They’re sold almost exclusively to men. “There just aren’t a lot of masks with female characters,” Weeks says. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because men in general like gory, scary costumes.” One exception: Hillary Clinton masks, which were all the rage last year.

6. FOOD COSTUMES ARE ALWAYS A HIT.

A dog wears a hot dog costume for Halloween
iStock

At Rasta Imposta, Berman says political and pop culture trends can shift their plans, but one theme is a constant: People love to dress up as food. “We’ve had big success with food items. Bananas, pickles. We did an avocado.” Demand for these faux-edible costumes can occasionally get ugly: Rasta is currently suing Sears and Kmart for selling a banana costume that they allege infringes on Rasta’s copyrighted version, which has blackened ends and a vertical stripe.

7. ADDING ”SEXY” TO EVERYTHING DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK.

A packaged Halloween costume hangs on a store rack
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

It’s a recurring joke that some costume makers only need to add a “sexy” adjective to a design concept in order to make it marketable. While there’s some truth to that—Quintana references Yandy’s “sexy poop emoji” costume—it’s no guarantee of success. “We had a concept for ‘sexy cheese’ that was a no-go,” she says. “'Sexy corn’ didn’t really work at all. ‘Sexy anti-fascist’ didn’t make the cut this year.”

8. PEOPLE ASK FOR SOME WEIRD STUFF.

A person appears in a skull costume with glowing eyes for Halloween
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In addition to monitoring social media for memes and trends, designers can get an idea of what consumers are looking for by shadowing their online searches. Costumeish.com monitors what people are typing into their search bar to see if they’re missing out on a potential hit. “People search for odd things sometimes,” Weeks says. “People want to be a cactus, a palm tree, they’re looking for a priest and a boy costume. People can be weird.”

9. THEY HAVE WORKAROUNDS FOR BIG PROPERTIES.

Go out to a party this year and you’re almost guaranteed to run into the Queen of the North. But not every costume maker has the official license for Game of Thrones. What are other companies to do? Come up with a design that sparks recognition without sparking a lawsuit. “Our biggest seller right now is Sexy Northern Queen,” Quintana says. “It’s inspired by a TV show.” But she won’t say which one.

10. PEOPLE LOVE SHARKS.

Singer Katy Perry appears on stage with two dancing sharks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

From the clunky Ben Cooper plastic costume from 1975’s Jaws to today, people can’t seem to get enough of shark-themed outfits. “We do a lot of sharks,” Berman says. “Maybe it’s because of Shark Week in the summertime, but sharks always tend to trend. People just like the idea of sharks.”

11. DEAD CELEBRITIES MEAN SALES.

A portrait of Hugh Hefner hangs in the Playboy Mansion
Hector Mata/Getty Images

It may be morbid, but it’s a reality: The high-profile passing of celebrities, especially close to Halloween, can trigger a surge in sales. “Before Robin Williams died, I couldn’t sell a Mork costume for a dollar,” Weeks says. “After he died, I couldn’t not sell it for less than $100.” This year, designers expect Hugh Hefner to fuel costume ideas—unless something else pops up suddenly to grab their attention. “Last year, when Prince died, that was almost trumped by [presidential debate audience member] Ken Bone,” Berman says. “He became almost more popular than Prince.”

12. THEY PROFIT FROM PEOPLE SHOPPING AT THE LAST MINUTE.

A man shops for Halloween costumes in a retail store
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Ever wonder why food and other novelty costumes tend to outsell traditional garb like pirates and witches? Because costume shopping for adults is usually done frantically and they don’t have time to compare 25 different Redbeards. “People tend to do it at the very last minute, so we want something that pops out at them,” Berman says. “Like, ‘Oh, I want to be a crab.’”

Weeks agrees that procrastination is profitable. “We make a lot of money on shipping,” he says. “Some people get party invites on the 25th and so they’re paying for next-day air.”

13. IT’S NOT ACTUALLY A SEASONAL BUSINESS.

A woman shops for costumes in a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Everyone we spoke to agreed that the most surprising thing about the Halloween business is that it’s not really seasonal on their end. Costumes are designed year-round, and planning can take between 12 and 18 months. “It’s 365 days a year,” Quintana says. “We’ll start thinking about next Halloween in December.” Weeks says he'll begin planning in May 2018—for Halloween 2019.

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This Just In
Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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Target

For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.
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Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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