The evolution of IHOP continued Wednesday with the DineEquity brand’s first opening of a post-security Airport location at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Terminal E. IHOP is in the midst of its most extensive remodel program in the company’s nearly 60-year history, a roughly $200 million initiative that expects to refresh about 1,000 units across the country by the end of 2018.
The new airport unit is an IHOP Express, which the brand said in a release was created “in response to longtime guest demand for delicious IHOP food on the go and part of the brand’s growth strategy, which includes expanding its overall traditional restaurant footprint, introducing smaller prototype restaurants, and building its portfolio of locations at captive places like airports, travel centers, casinos, and universities.”
The restaurant will be open 24 hours a day and serve signature items such as IHOP’s Buttermilk pancakes, four-egg omelets, sandwiches, salads, appetizer platters, and hand-seasoned burgers. The made-to-order items, IHOP said, will be ready in seven minutes or less.
This location, developed by franchisee D&B Mitchell Group, has specific features such as a Coffee Bar with lattes and espresso beverages; a Grab ‘n Go section for hot items, including burritos and bowls; and a full bar with wine, spirits, brunch-inspired cocktails, and local craft beer.
“The opening of IHOP Express at DFW Airport demonstrates our commitment to being where our guests are today, and where they want us to be in the future,” said Darren Rebelez, president of IHOP, in a statement. “We continue to build on, refine and enhance all areas of the business that have made IHOP a leader in family dining, including expanding our total number of restaurants and introducing new formats that meet guest needs.”
IHOP’s first airport location opened October 2013 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The store, which is an Express format, was opened by franchisee Global Concessions and can seat 120 guests. It’s located, however, in the atrium before security checkpoints. The DFW store is the first capable of serving guests through security who are waiting for their planes to take off, which is one of the reasons it’s placing such an emphasis on fast service, to-go options, and specialty beverages.
“We’re pleased to have D&B Mitchell Group, who was voted the 2017 Concessionaire of the Year by the Regional Minority Enterprises Agency, join the IHOP Family and serve as owner and operator of the IHOP Express at DFW,” Rebelez added. “Their reputation for consistently providing an exceptional guest experience in their restaurants aligns perfectly with IHOP’s core values.”
DFW was voted the Best Large Airport in North America for Customer Satisfaction by Airports Council International as well.
“Our team is incredibly proud of the work that went into bringing the IHOP brand to DFW Airport,” said Don Mitchell, senior partner at D&B Mitchell Group, a Dallas-based company, in a statement. “Our goal is to provide the same great, freshly made food that IHOP is known for along with the fast and convenient service that busy travelers are looking for, without compromising on the hospitable dining experience that makes the brand stand out.”
Unlike Applebee’s, DineEquity is focusing much of its IHOP growth on domestic outlets. The company plans to open about 80–95 new IHOPs in 2017, with the majority debuting in the U.S. The brand did launch concepts in Thailand, Lebanon, and India this year.
There were 1,752 total IHOP units as of June 30 (1,646 in the U.S.). DineEquity said following its second-quarter review that it expected 20–25 IHOPs to close this year as the company battled sliding sales. IHOP’s domestic same-store sales were down 2.6 percent year-over-year in the quarter. They fell 1.7 percent in the first quarter. That was much healthier than the 6.2 percent decline by Applebee’s, a brand DineEquity said would close up to 135 locations in fiscal 2017. DineEquity expects IHOP’s comps to decline 1–3 percent for the year.
IHOP said its design transformation will update through the entire system by the end of 2020 and that the updates account “for changing guest preferences and includes technology enhancements to support the in-restaurant and IHOP ‘N GO dining experience.”