Up Next


IHOP or IHOb? Marketing move leaves a bad taste with black students

When it comes to breakfast, burgers or brunch, Waffle House still wins

It’s 2 a.m. on a Saturday, you just left the party, you’ve sweated out your clothes, you got that girl’s or guy’s number you’ve been dancing with all night and now you are so hungry that it feels like your stomach is touching your back.

We’ve all been here before.

This is a typical night for many college students who choose to go out with their friends on the weekend. And for those students, the remedy to the 2 a.m. munchies boils down to a few popular restaurant chains: Waffle House, IHOP, Sonic and maybe a local diner close to their campus.

But early Monday, one of those restaurant chains decided to go in a new direction that could significantly affect its competition for college students. IHOP decided to temporarily change its branding from “the International House of Pancakes” to the International House of Burgers” or IHOb. The marketing strategy by the popular restaurant chain is an effort to be known as a place to get lunch and dinner, not just breakfast and brunch.

After the announcement, black students went into an uproar on social media. Some even said that they would “pass” on the restaurant entirely after this branding shift.

While some students were shocked by the unexpected move, others said the new marketing approach would be insignificant for IHOP’s or “IHOb’s” brand in the long run.

“People will always go to IHOP to get their pancakes first and foremost,“ said Chris Edwards, a recent TV broadcast and film grad from Elon University. “The menu had burgers before and no one liked them, so unless they’ve done something drastic to the flavors, then this campaign was a waste.“

“They aren’t taking anything away. The usual customers can still get what they regularly order and new customers can try something new, and if they don’t like it they can just stick to the pancakes,“ said Isaiah Stewart, a junior at North Carolina A&T University. “I think it’s kind of like putting on jewelry; it doesn’t have to make the fit, but it could help.“

So far, it doesn’t seem like it has. Public perception of the brand’s move has been met with not only bewilderment but also a Twitter backlash from lots of black college students.

“I thought it was stupid and unnecessary to go from a breakfast establishment to having a focus on burgers. One percent of all customers go to IHOP to purchase a burger, so why make this big of a change?” said Janae Adams, a senior at Clark Atlanta University. “IHOP is where people go on Sunday after church for breakfast. That’ll hurt business.“

The disapproval has only seemed to lengthen the gap between IHOP and one of its main competitors, Waffle House, which lots of black students already prefer because it’s cheaper and offers a different vibe for their post-party munchies.

“Waffle House is the superior 24-hour restaurant that will serve you anything and everything for a cheap price,” said Edwards. “You want waffles, hash browns and a burger at 3 a.m.? They got you already. People already know that they have solid burgers if you really want something different, so it’s not even worth talking about.”

What is worth talking about, however, is how detrimental this marketing campaign will be for IHOP as it watches some of its young black consumers go elsewhere for their late-night meal.

Donovan Dooley is a former Rhoden Fellow and a multimedia journalism major from Tuscaloosa, AL. He attends North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.