IHOP Boosts By Amazing Customer Experience – EP15

 International House of Pancakes (IHOP) is a well-known all-day restaurant that focused on classic breakfast dishes and pancakes – lots of pancakes. This podcast episode focuses on their efforts in evolving their menu through customer and employee feedback. Customer experience never tastes this good.

You can find this podcast episode on major podcast platforms: SpotifyApple PodcastsiHeartMediaAmazon MusicGoogle Podcasts, and Anchor.

Introduction – IHOP

Opened in 1958, IHOP has been an American restaurant institution for almost 65 years. Based in Glendale Canada, the chain has more than 1,500 locations worldwide. Having served millions of pancakes, the chain has also been known for the smile in its logo and fun. Four years ago as part of April Fool’s Day, IHOP changed its name to IHOB and convinced many that it will be switched to burgers.

Given customer experience is in its DNA, it is not surprising to see the chain goes to its most important stakeholders – the customers and employees for suggestions on its bigger menu evolution to date.


IHOP Menu Change

This is Retail Mashup, and I’m Larry. Hi, I’m DeAnn and this is where we mash together the subjects of retail and customer experience for your pleasure and entertainment focusing on revenue generation.

I have a very interesting topic this week. It’s about IHOP. They are changing their menu as of April 3rd. I love this particular menu change because they really thought about what are customers looking for. What are the employees saying on the ground in juggling some of the pieces of the puzzle?

Back in the pandemic when, when traffic was slow I helped actually reduce their menu by up to 30%, maybe more than 30%.

Feedback Matters

Over time, as traffic comes back, and people started going back to IHOP, they notice that there are some items being requested by customers. They miss those items. And so one of the items is Cinn-a-Stack. It’s pancakes that have the ingredients of Cinnabons or Cinnamons.

IHOP Boosts By Amazing Customer Experience – Cinn-A-Stack (Image: IHOP)

People were calling hotlines every week since they went off the menu. And so maybe this is the perfect time to bring them back and, and tell people that we love you and we love them, and we wanted to give them what they’re looking for.

And as well, They have been getting a lot of information from employees working on the ground and helping shape what are the items that should be brought back, and also items that are easy to make or require more time in training.

Employee Experience And Training

For example, they are bringing back eggs benedicts. You will have to boil eggs now. Many employees, perhaps new employees did not have to do this for a long time. And so that’s something the company would have to provide training for.

IHOP’s new menu item creates employee training challenges.

And what’s interesting is that with this particular menu change, it’s still paired down by about 15%. IHOP headquarters ensure that it’s easier for the employees. they Look into the number of items that would require the grill and those that would not require the grill, and in this case, the menu, the new menu.

With salads to surf and turf and whatnot, 90% of them are still specifically done on the grill. Which is great for the employees and managing the expectation. From a training perspective, it’s also easier to manage quality.

So I want to bring this in a little bit because many brands like to provide a menu that they think clients may want. But that’s not often the case. Seldom do I see a brand go off the way to listen and, and understand and learn from all the customer feedback and use that feedback to adjust the menu either seasonally or permanently.

The Discussion

My husband and I have a pizza place near our house that we love to go to, and my husband is a big fan of their fun guy pizza. It centered around mushrooms.

I think this is a great example of taking that feedback in stride and building a new offering or adjusting its offering to maximize the customer experience and potential revenue. So this is my story. What do you think?

They discontinued it and he expressed unhappiness. Every time he goes, he kind of asks, and the waitress started special ordering it. And it turns out that a lot of customers were doing this. They missed it so much that they were asking for it and forcing the line cook to try to figure out how to make it.

And I think your point on new staff, this is a real struggle for them because it’s not part of their training. They’re having to go off the menu and make something from scratch, which really slows the kitchen down. And so the restaurant decided to bring it back and put it into their regular mix because it was so requested and beloved.

It strikes me as strange, how many retailers, restaurants, and pretty much in any kind of customer-facing industry tend to forget about the customer and the fact that the very reason for their existence is that customer. It’s a privilege to be in business, not a right.

And so if you don’t design your systems around the customer first, Then you’re not thinking long term and you’re probably not gonna be around much longer. You know, a big example of that is Starbucks. You and I have talked about Starbucks before, so I won’t dwell on it, but they began their business on the idea that people needed a third place between work and home.

Well, it turns out they were absolutely right and people were incredibly supportive and loyal. What allowed the company to grow is the desire and demand for third place. Their coffee’s good, but it’s not any better than anybody else’s, and it’s not even as good as many other coffee shops.

So that’s really their secret sauce. But lately, they have been taking the customer out of the equation and trying to optimize their delivery line. Now when you go into a Starbucks, the employees are just robots, their heads are down. They’re frantically trying to fill orders from mobile orders and drive-throughs.

The customer experience is gone and employees are not happy about it and the customer are not happy about it. And consequently, McDonald’s is actually almost neck and neck with Starbucks these days as far as coffee sales go.

And in Europe, McDonald’s has beaten Starbucks. You’re not gonna pay a premium for a standard Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) experience, so why not listen to the customer, even if it’s a little extra trouble, and build that loyalty and slow down for a beat and not try to grow too quickly, so quickly that you lose your appeal to the customer.

That is very true because I’m thinking about coming back to IHOP, the equation for success is not just about the menu, it’s really about building that customer experience or finding the customer experience based on feedback, engaging the customer base that you are making changes and why you’re making changes for the better, empowering employees through training and also listening to them.

And then having that holistic 360o view of do we really need all the items on the menu or should we really do certain items better? Instead of having everything and the kitchen sink, maybe it is better for them to have a reduction of menu items so that the line cooks, waiters, and waitresses would be able to do their job better.

And, that’s really the way of both engaging your customer base, engaging your employee base, and really managing and refining the experience that you talked about is lacking at Starbucks currently.

So on that note, this is the end of another episode, Retail Mashup. If you like the episode and the podcast, please subscribe and we’ll talk to you again next time.

* We made some modifications to the transcript to improve understandability and flow

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