May 12, 2021 | Report Announcements

IHOP is well established as the largest player in the $1B+ family chain segment with 28% market share and the largest marketing budget. Although the brand is best known for award-winning, high margin pancakes (complimented by its never empty coffee pot & flavored syrups) and for putting an unexpected twist on “all things breakfast, any time of the day,” efforts to contemporize the brand include a pivot towards lunch, dinner & late night (to better leverage its 24×7 availability) and off-premise capabilities. The chain’s historic sit-down appeal also centered around a fun/likeable experience and engaging servers who provide a warm & welcoming environment. A significant amount of culinary innovation helps the brand to break through the clutter and value deals are well-targeted to drive traffic during the chain’s slower days/dayparts (lunch & dinner) while also used to bolster off-premise. To this end, its IHOPPY Hour LTO and the new burrito & bowl platform provide an example of successful expansions along these lines. Long-term sales should continue to benefit from: the retention of a good part of its elevated post-lockdown off-premise business; a stronger value equation; more effective marketing; increased investments in research & consumer insight designed to help understand evolving dining habits in order to drive frequency & check; a focus on traffic-generating menu innovation that helps with PM daypart expansion; reinvented guest experience; enhanced guest engagement with CRM/loyalty; guest satisfaction improvements; and remodeling. All-the-same, it cannot go without saying that post-lockdown results have been particularly severe given the chain’s breakfast orientation (reflecting less commuting & the fact that the breakfast occasion is most easily replaced with simple meals at home like cereal) taken together with its historic positioning towards the lower income demo (which has suffered the most economically post-lockdown) and older patrons (which have been the most cautious about venturing out). As a result, operators suffered dramatically during 2020, with EBITDAR dollar profits almost halving y/y (fortunately, liquidity was provided by royalty/ad/rent deferrals & government assistance). In conclusion, we continue to like IHOP’s long-term strategy, improvements and execution and it is our expectation that the brand’s near-term challenges, no matter how severe, will eventually dissipate as the human need to socialize & form community endures.

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