IHOP is taking a page out of the fast-casual handbook with its newest menu item launch: portable Pancake Tacos, which come in two sweet and two savory varieties.
It all started when one IHOP franchisee in Houston created and launched a Choco-Pancake last year, after Klondike discontinued its popular Choco Taco after 40 years. The classic buttermilk pancake was stuffed with vanilla ice cream and dredged in chocolate sauce, whipped cream and, of course, chocolate chips, then hand-pressed in a waffle iron to achieve a crispy finish.
“It inspired us, and we said, ‘there’s more to this, let’s work through this process and get to an understanding that will fit our menu,'” recalls Arthur Carl II, vice president of culinary at IHOP. He and his team created more than 20 variations of sweet and savory options—and that was just for fillings.
The culinary team also drafted different texture and flavor profiles for the shell. “The best shell we had is our perfect griddled pancake we use every single day, so we used our small silver dollar. It eats really well, and is like a street taco,” Carl says.
After letting the C-suite, marketing team, and franchisees taste the lineup, two sweet and two savory options were chosen: Fresh Strawberry Cheesecake, Caramel Banana, Breakfast Pancake Taco, and Country Chicken and Gravy. “Everyone had a different favorite,” Carl says.
“Fresh strawberries and cheesecake speaks to everyone. It’s refreshing. The caramel banana is almost like a banana pudding foster put together, with a great flavor profile,” he continues. “The breakfast pancake taco has bacon, egg, cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, with a white cheddar cheese that eats really well. And the country fried chicken has hash browns inside, country gravy, and a pickle for acid. It just depends on what mood you’re in.”
Following the brand’s largest menu evolution at the end of March, IHOP saw an opportunity to create a limited-time offering based on its “great core foundation,” he says.
“What we’ve done is we’ve looked at the breakfast equities we’ve had, and consumer insight studies to understand, do we have the best crepe and pancake?” Carl continues. “Now that the foundation is put down and consumers said, ‘this is a great product, so keep it,’ or ‘adjust it slightly to now be best-in-class,’ and I believe we’ve gotten there. This is the next iteration.”
The pancake tacos start at $6 for one order of three same-flavored tacos for dine-in or to-go. “The idea is a table might want one savory, one sweet, which is six tacos for the table. That’s my thought process and how I’d like it to go, is as an add-on. People still love our pancakes and omelets, but it’s a good exploratory [item] to add on,” he says.
To promote the LTO, the brand also partnered with TikTok creators, who weigh in on whether the new menu item is a pancake or taco.
While IHOP’s Pancake Tacos are only available at participating restaurants through July 30, there’s always a chance a beloved LTO could one day make it on the permanent menu.
“If it speaks well to the guest, it could be something we iterate, or another item that comes out with the pancake taco format, as well. We’ll let the guests speak to that, and see where it goes,” Carl adds.
IHOP guests can also expect more new menu items, set to be announced at the end of August or beginning of September.