Consumers certainly have an abundance of choices these days, from online streaming services to IPA beers to sneakers. According to a study in the Journal of International Marketing, most consumers prefer having more options.
IHOP’s consumers are among them. According to the chain’s internal market research, over 80% of orders that come through its system are customized.
In response to this trend, IHOP is launching a new “Choice Menu” in the fall, available throughout all dayparts for both in-restaurant and off-premise orders.
According to Chief Marketing Officer Kieran Donahue, the goal of this launch is to promote options across breakfast, lunch or dinner any time of day.
“With more than 20 griddle flavors on our menu, there’s a ton of choice for our guests, including our world-famous buttermilk pancakes, crepes and French toast to build into a combo of your liking,” she said. “The launch showcases our commitment to listen to guests’ needs, as well as highlight IHOP’s all-day options. We’re now making it more transparent for our guests to choose what they want and how they want it during all dayparts. We are leaning into our research by offering more options than ever.”
Essentially, the Choice Menu allows customers to create their own combos from IHOP’s core menu. Those combo offerings include:
- Create Your Own Griddle Combos, with pancakes, crepes, Fresh toast or a Belgian waffle, plus two eggs and two bacon strips or sausage links.
- A choice of a beef Steakburger, crispy chicken breast or grilled chicken breast dressed in one of IHOP’s sandwich options, such as The Classic with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and IHOP Sauce, or the Big Brunch, with bacon, a fried egg, crispy potato pancake, American cheese and IHOP sauce.
- Two pumpkin spice pancakes with combo tiers that include an egg combo, bacon and eggs combo, ham and eggs combo and more.
- Scary Face pancakes, provided with a side of mini Oreo cookies, glazed strawberries and candy corn for decorating.
The chain is also partnering with Microsoft’s Xbox to promote the new menu and to offer loyalty members in IHOP’s new International Bank of Pancakes program three exclusive Xbox-inspired meal combos for a limited time, including:
- Party animals: A cupcake pancake combo with eggs over easy.
- Grounded: A Big Brunch Steakburger with a side of buttermilk pancakes.
- Forza Family Feast: Four servings each of scrambled eggs and hash browns, eight bacon strips, eight pork sausage links and eight buttermilk pancakes.
Loyalty members also have the chance to receive exclusive game offers, including an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate trial and passes to a variety of games. Tapping Xbox as its first loyalty program partner could be an effective way to drive trial and frequency, particularly among younger consumers. Xbox commands more than 50% of the gaming market share in the US, while Xbox Live counts more than 100 million monthly active users.
That focus on loyalty members should also provide a lift to IHOP’s digital sales, which continue to mix above 20% despite a return of dine-in business, and that number should also continue to grow with the launch of IHOP’s new mobile app and website.
“Our biggest goal is to remind our guests of the offerings on our core menu and make it easier than ever for them to build a plate made up of their favorite menu items,” Donahue said.
Alongside ease, value also plays apart with this launch by focusing on combo meal creations. Value has become a much bigger focus in the restaurant space throughout the past few months as relentless inflation has forced consumers to rein in their discretionary spending. The restaurant industry as a whole has experienced traffic declines, and those declines have been pronounced most among lower-income households.
Donahue notes the Choice Menu will exist alongside the chain’s continuing IHOPPY
In addition to the full Choice Menu, IHOP will continue to generate new news with more menu introductions in October. Donahue expects the added ability for guests to modify their meals will raise more awareness of IHOP’s new core menu, launched in Q1, and drive more sales.
During parent company Dine Brands’ Q2 earnings call earlier this month, IHOP President Jay Johns said that core menu accounts for a “large majority” of the chain’s business and growth, and offers a “foundation for innovation.” The Choice Menu seems to be the first such example of what can come from that foundation.
“The fact that Choice is baked into our core menu is key and we are making it easier than ever for guests to have it their way by offering this upfront,” Donahue said. “We are giving our guests more reasons to come back … focusing on choice, variety and the made-to-order quality shows that we know what guest want, when they want it.”