May 12, 2022 | Insights

IHOP is well positioned as the largest player in the $1B+ family chain segment with 31% market share and the largest marketing budget in the segment. The chain is well known for its famous high margin pancakes, never empty coffee pot & flavored syrups (#1 brand awareness in family segment & top share of voice at 27%) and for putting an unexpected twist on “all things breakfast, any time of the day”. The brand’s historic sit-down appeal centers around a fun/likeable experience and engaging servers who provide a warm & welcoming environment. A new 3-pronged marketing strategy is based upon: (1) relevant brand positioning around quality made-to-order food and a joyful dining atmosphere; (2) an omnichannel marketing approach which engages both new & old guests through online, mobile, social media & traditional TV; and (3) enhancing one-to-one relationships by leveraging the recent launch of its new “International Bank of Pancakes” loyalty program. To this end, the brand’s new “Let’s Put a Smile on Your Plate” TV ad campaign highlights IHOP’s food quality & joyful atmosphere. A significant amount of culinary innovation helps the brand to break through the clutter and while value-oriented guests represent a sizeable share of IHOP’s total (consistent with IHOP’s “middle America” positioning), it is notable that its value deals mix much lower, reflecting the brand’s ability to upsell. Success with its IHOPPY Hour (starting at 3PM with entrees priced from $6+) addresses both the underutilized PM daypart and value, driving traffic & comps. A relatively high mix of younger guests facilitate digital and off-premise and this plays to brand strength in digital marketing. Long-term sales tailwinds: eventual restoration of normal operating hours; brand repositioning which helps improve relevancy; digital marketing efforts & new loyalty program which helps reach the brand’s higher-than-average mix of younger customers; retention of post-covid off-premise sales; efforts to boost sales during low capacity PM dayparts; continued support from an iconic brand which addresses demand for tried-and-true comfort food during a tumultuous time; and incremental sales from its 2 new virtual brands. Notably, IHOP’s 1Q22 AWS increased +19% y/y to $36k and reached a high of $41k in March ($2.1MM annualized AUV) which would represent a system high if sustained. Also, development is starting to rebound, helped by the option to build smaller footprint formats optimized for off-premise. All-the-same, it cannot go without saying that IHOP’s covid sales results were particularly severe given the chain’s breakfast orientation (reflecting less commuting and 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) and older patrons (which have been the most cautious about venturing out). These demos are most vulnerable to very challenging inflationary pressures which may require IHOP to pivot further to value. In conclusion, while IHOP’s strategy and execution provide a solid long-term positioning, the brand may need to pivot further towards value to weather the mid-term and possibly long-term economic environment.

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