Blease, don’t look at me. I ate the whole thing.
On Monday, the venerable IHOP — International House of Pancakes — flibbed out. It is now, on a temporary basis, IHOb, which stands for International House of Burgers, it turns out. This is supposedly a stunt to draw attention to its new Ultimate Steakburgers, and it is working, so well that I just went and consumed one.
I have not been to an IHOP in decades.
I am writing this while lying down.
I am very thirsty.
I ordered the classic with bacon. It comes on the shiniest bun I have ever seen. It looks wet but it isn’t. I can see my reflection in it. The patty itself is made of USDA choice Black Angus beef. It is flat, but fatter than the average fast-food patty, greasy within reason, very well done. Even so, it has good beefy flavor. The lettuce is plentiful, the tomato abysmal (crunchy and pale), the flabby, fatty bacon assuredly not worth the $3.50 upcharge. But to the good, there’s American cheese, pickles, and signature IHOP sauce, a pinky-orange condiment reminiscent of other proprietary burger sauces you may have known and loved. It comes with a whole mess of very salty, fairly average fries. It is probably worth $6.99 (for a limited time only) for the classic Steakburger with unlimited fries and a drink. But when there is Five Guys to the left of me, Shake Shack to the right, this is not a good enough burger to bet the brand name on.
IHOP knows this.
The name change is temporary. “We’re not switching the signs,” someone says, giggling, when I call one branch to inquire. “It’s just a joke to tell people that we have burgers.” The place that has long been the “home of all things breakfast” . . . still is. It’s not that you can’t order stacks of flabjacks. It’s just that burgers have joined the barty.
(It is worth noting that instead of fries, you can order your burger with two buttermilk pancakes on the side. Enticing!)
The BR stunt has been a boon across the board, as competitors responded wittily.
“Not really afraid of the burgers from a place that decided pancakes were too hard,” tweeted Wendy’s.
“As much as we love our pancakes, we’d never change our name to Whatapancake,” chimed in Whataburger.
White Castle said it was changing its name to Pancake Castle. Waffle House took the subtweet high road, quoting Bruce Lee: “Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.” Burger King was above it all, touting its new Pretzel Chicken Fries (note: after this story was filed, it changed its Twitter handle to Pancake King), and McDonald’s was silent, missing an opportunity altogether.
(Denny’s was disappointingly unfunny, given that Sunday it had tweeted, “A dating app for people who like fried chicken and they call it ‘Tender’. You’re welcome.”)
And when Chrissy Teigen tweeted, “IHOb sure loves going all in on one food item,” the pancake, er, burger chain replied: “All in is all we know. Come try one if you want a new legend in your life.”
Funny, right? The restaurant’s burgers and pancakes may be as memorable as they are international. But this temporary name change, the buildup to it, and the humorous handling in the hours after it was announced, all of that will stick with me as surely as the 1,100 calories I just consumed.
It serves as a reminder that fast food — portrayed as the province of the “average American,” whatever that means — is a sophisticated industry powered by money and marketing. In fact, I’m not sure any sector as a whole currently has savvier social media presence.
Call it IHOb or IHOP or whatever you want. This was never about the menu.
Now let’s see what IHOb’s sister restaurant has up its sleeve. Abblepee’s doesn’t quite have the same ring.Devra First can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.