IHOP last week suggested something with a "b" would be coming, jokingly flipping its logo to read "IHOb" ahead of a big update. IHOP's pancakes aren't going anywhere, but the chain does hope to sell more burgersâ€”which it's actually had on the menu since its start in 1958.
"One of the very first things we did was to gauge people's awareness of burgers at IHOP," says Chief Marketing Officer Brad Haley. "The awareness was low, quite low, I'd say."
Now IHOP wants to serve burgers good enough that people might actually think about coming in for more than just pancakes, at any time of the day.
"Even though we've had them forever, they just were clearly not top of mind," says Haley.
He joined IHOP last summer after more than a dozen years as CMO of CKE, the parent of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, so he knows a bit about burgers.
"For us to make a credible statement around burgers, we had to not just make a better burger, but make the best one we could come up with," he says.
Consumer research was done on the type of ground beef, toppings, name, and so on. The burgers were then tested in four markets scattered across the country. "We really left no pickle unturned," Haley jokes.
Now the meat is smashed on grills by hand with a burger press. Haley can geek out on the juiciness, sear and so on. The USDA Choice Black Angus ground beef, seasoning and cooking method IHOP now uses are a far cry from heating up the frozen patties as it used to.
"We had to communicate the fact that we have burgers in a very disruptive way," says Haley, all while being careful that IHOP's burger advertising, which comes from Droga5, wouldn't be mistaken for another brand's. Hence, the new nameâ€”it's temporaryâ€”and a TV spot featuring a restaurant manager shouting from the chain's recognizable pitched blue rooftop.