Will a flip in a name change result in a sales boost? Time will tell.

We Asked Restaurant Professionals What They Think of IHOb. Here’s What They Said

Some loved it, some just didn't get it.

IHOP or IHOb: Brilliant or blunder? From Wendy’s and White Castle roasting the brand to Fast Company naming IHOP’s spot a top 5 ad of the week, there’s no denying this simple fact, no matter where you stand: IHOP got people talking.

IHOP president Darren Rebelez recently took some time to fill FSR in on the why behind the campaign. (Read about it here). But we wanted to ask our readers, restaurant professionals from all sides of the business, what they thought of the buzzed-about campaign. Here were some of the top responses:

Brilliant PR stunt for earned media. With CDR in general struggling for guest count and sales, what a fun way to try and steal some lunch or dinner share from the competition.

It’s a battle for share today and bold moves are required to fight the good fight!

Chuck McAulay

Director of Marketing, Aspen Creek Grill

I’ve had people who never ask about restaurants ask me about it, so as a marketing vehicle, I would say a win.

For IHOP, they need to expand their lunch and dinner and this seems a good way to do it. I spoke with a 20-unit IHOP franchisee and he seemed happy with the results.

What I would be concerned about now is trying to save Applebee’s by introducing breakfast items co-branding as they have just done in Detroit. I don’t know how to save Applebee’s but I’d hate to see Dine Global drag down IHOP by trying to begin serving breakfast in Applebee’s. 

Mark Engemann

Senior Vice President, Colliers International

So … IHOP to IHOB … from a marketing point of view, it certainly has caused quite a stir. Good, bad, ugly. Any publicity puts you back into the game. So, a successful campaign. 

Hopefully, it will be short lived. This company is about pancakes. Burgers? Where does that fit in? There are a kazillion burger joints. What made IHOP stand out? They’ve been in business forever and their brand represents one thing. Instead of spending millions on rebranding, why not invest that money into better products and ingredients.   

I live in Canada and winter in Arizona. Last year, on our way to Tucson, we stopped at an IHOP. I wanted to see what all the hype was. Disappointed at best. Pancakes from a mix, I can live with. Pancake syrup?! I grew up on Lanark County Maple Syrup, best in the world. I would never eat that fake stuff. And the fruits? High fructose corn syrup and fruit do not mix. Low-end coffee, fake coffee cream. Junk food breakfast. 

Skip the burgers, invest in better quality ingredients and bring back the Hop! 

Lule Cameron

I think it is a brilliant move for creating awareness for their burger line and their lunch and dinner segments. Reminds me of the “New Coke” campaign from years ago, which was controversial at that time but certainly did not hurt, and only got Coke products more shelf space in grocery stores!

I fully expect them to go back to IHOP sometime soon …

Thomas Finn

Vice President, Franchise Development, The Greene Turtle Franchising Corporation

While I think it’s almost as talked about as Yanny or Laurel, I think it’s a bust. I don't think burgers from a pancake place are going to gain legs. Especially if its temporary as its been explained in the media. If they had better food, higher-quality ingredients, and incorporated a more local feel and neighborhood kind of vibe that would be better. Keep the “b” but for breakfast—and promote a breakfast all-day mentality. Come on now, this is easy!

Amy Russo

Toast City Diner LLC

Danny, it’s a short-term promotional play and it turned out to be BRILLIANT. Tens of millions of dollars worth of free impressions and the sniping back from Wendy’s, BK, and Whataburger only makes it that much better. (They changed the sign on one whole store—they aren’t renaming it IHOb.)

I doubt highly this would have happened in the Julia Stewart era, BTW. Kudos to Steve Joyce! 

Allan L. Reagan

President and Chief Enthusiasm Officer, Flix Entertainment Group INC.

If our name is in their mouth, then our food will be too!

Joseph Kenner

General Manager, Oviedo IHOP

I have watched as the IHOP to IHOB controversy has unfolded and I think it was absolutely brilliant. Everyone, and I mean literally everyone is talking about it and sharing their opinion. It is obvious that people have very strong ties to IHO(b) and isn't that what marketing is about. IHO(b) has everyone talking about their restaurant and their brand—you can't buy this type of exposure.

When was the last time that IHOP was controversial or cutting-edge with their marketing? Companies that fail to take advantage of these types of marketing opportunities eventually close. Now all the other types of restaurants can breathe a collective sigh of relief because the "B" could have stood for burrito, BBQ, butter or bacon!

Paula Hunt
Director of Marketing, RTi Global


Burgers at IHOP? IHOb, you mean.

If Dine Brand’s goal was to be in the news, then it worked. The IHOb campaign was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal Wednesday and there was a story in the Chicago Tribune about the brand's plans to open more restaurants in the city of Chicago.

Joe Donnelly

IHOb or “Burger Gate” created over 8 billion impressions. Brilliant or a blunder? Eight billion impressions of earned media, which would have cost millions in advertisements, proves it was a brilliant move. Agree with the marketing play or not, IHOP is gaining national media attention, they have all of the burger competitors talking, and they reached their target audience. I’ve even seen pictures and reviews of their burgers already. Something is working. But, the real answer will be in their sales. Will their sales head upward?

Amber Mullaney

Director of Marketing and Communications, QSR Automations

When looking to bring media attention to a national brand that has been around for a while, strategic thinking like this can truly make a difference in the public’s perception of a brand, as well as interest. It’s all about awareness, so it was most definitely a smart move on IHOP/ IHOb’s end to execute a strategy like this. Piquing interest and creating a grand reveal was brilliant. Creating a new menu category can be difficult, but it is exciting that they are looking to own this space and come into this new segment in a strong way. Regardless of the backlash and inconsistent response, it still got people talking about the brand on a viral scale.

Jordan Robinson

Senior Account Executive, JS2 PR

I heard about this and don't get it.

As a serial entrepreneur, trying to be something that you are not can turn out to being OOB (Out of Business) decisions. I have seen this happen many times in my career. Fortunately not to me personally. 

A new IHOP opened near our home, my wife and I ate breakfast there a few months ago, not a good experience!

Add into the mix that the burger business has exploded in the past few years with lots of new players entering this crowded space. Not sure how IHOP plans to compete. Doubt it will be on price due to dollar menus (I personally LOVE McDonalds Double Cheeseburger) and I am a really healthy eater. 

I associate IHOP with breakfast, why not just do a much better job in their core business as they attempt to morph into something different, or change the whole name, or go to House of Pancakes and Burgers. 

As a franchisor I am hyper sensitive to how decisions impact our franchisees—signage and things like this are not cheap. One hundred percent Black Angus is a big yawn. We grilled burgers last night, shelves at grocery store are filled with raw burger options.

Curious what kind of sales lift they will experience with all of this buzz and will it be sustainable? 

Paul E. Berman

CEO, BirthdayPak

Brilliant marketing/PR move—for now. I commend brands that are willing to take the risk and step out of the box with their public relations and marketing strategies. In IHOP’s situation, it placed a struggling brand back into the limelight showcasing them front and center with this marketing stunt. While this tactic may not help increase sales or move the needle long-term, it was great for media impressions that were generated from numerous national stories and social media chatter on the company’s bold name change and burger launch.

Only time will tell if this was a brilliant move to actually impact sales.

Durée M. Ross

President and CEO, Durée & Company

I thought it was a very clever promotion, complete with reversing the p to b, elevating awareness that IHOP has other dining segments besides breakfast and pancakes.

Our 10-year-old grandson, along with his electronic social network, knew about it long before I did and expressed concern about the possible end of IHOP pancakes, and is still talking about it.

And ... we would not even be talking about IHOP at all today if not for the catchy promo.

Bob Beckmann

I sniffed out “publicity stunt” from the moment I learned about it a few weeks ago.

I also found it to be pragmatically creative—a simple letter turn creating a large-scale campaign that crossed into multiple layers of marketing—advertising, PR, social media, and more.

I take no issue with the campaign and find it to have achieved what the brand wanted, which was buzz. Now, I have read that the organization is hoping to spur burger sales as the measurement of ROI on this, but I think a brand awareness campaign is what this is and what the brand should be measuring—impressions, sentiment, media exposure, engagement, web visitors, etc.

There will be a bump in sales most likely for a few days as IHOb bubbles up, but I’m not sure this will create a long-term success for burger sales at IHOP. No doubt it has opened eyes to the brand and they should be applauded for that—the brand has become stale in many ways over the years and this refreshes it.

Jamie Izaks

President, All Points Public Relations

I think its a bold move, and has clearly stirred attention, which will be awesome in the long run! However, in order to maintain the momentum, they need strong and unique burgers, which I don’t think they can provide. They look standard, and with "chain" quality food, they seem weak. They'll lose traction if they can’t perform! 

Sarah Epperson

Owner and Chef, Blues St BBQ Co. 

I feel it’s a pretty smart/creative campaign to build awareness of this evidentially new burger initiative. I certainly wouldn’t think of IHOP as a burger alternative. I personally love burger-centric restaurants and now feel compelled to go check it out. They had to reach out beyond their base to reach a new demographic (someone like myself who would never visit otherwise). Solid move.

David Ploski

My personal belief is this is a great promotional idea. People are talking about IHOP. I don’t think it will work as a promotion of burgers. However, I expect the breakfast to increase over the next couple of weeks as people will have IHOP on the mind. 

Eddie Anderson