IHOP's New Fast-Casual Breakfast Joint Doesn't Get Breakfast
If there was one big "innovation" in the food world in the past decade, it's been the absolute explosion of "fast-casual" restaurants on the scene. The idea of being able to walk up to a counter, throw whatever you want into some kind of container, and get charged a simple price for it at the end of the line is such a 21st century way to consume food. That's the type of flexibility that can excite everyone, from a family in Colorado having dinner before game night to an on-the-go New York businessman who hardly has the time to eat in the first place. If you poll the Midwest on what their favorite Mexican food is these days, a tragically significant percentage of the population will say "Chipotle."
What's largely been missing from the fast-casual scene, however, is a breakfast place. It's so obvious, right? Why wouldn't someone have gone all in on fast and casual breakfast? Enter IHOP's new idea, a fast-casual restaurant of their own called Flip'd -- a name that evokes fluffy and delicious pancakes but also the sheer madness Americans have about their breakfast food.
According to IHOP CEO Jay Johns, the first Flip'd is set to open in Atlanta in April 2020, and the target demographic is largely people who were grabbing coffee on the way to work and just so happened to grab a bite to eat from whatever food was available at the coffee shop counter. IHOP knows its food, so they think that's the market share they're gonna snap up.
The problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of what makes a food into a breakfast food in the first place. First of all, if your breakfast is going to be consumed "to-go," as IHOP is implying we should do with the limited seating design of Flip'd, the structure of the breakfast needs to be such that it doesn't require utensils. We're talking sandwiches here, mostly. If you try to eat, say, a bowl of cereal on the go, then you're in for a bad time.
But nobody goes to IHOP for cereal, they're famous for what's potentially the only breakfast food that can be even messier than cereal. To IHOP's credit, it sounds like they're trying to get around this with the idea of a "pancake bowl." Apparently this means putting fruit or eggs or other toppings on top of a pancake, you know, like a regular pancake stack, but stashing it in a bowl instead of on a plate.
This leads us to the other major structural integrity problem -- you ever order pancakes from IHOP or Denny's through some delivery app like UberEats or Postmates? The minute you slap a lid onto a hot pancake, you start to re-cook the thing with its own steam. This turns your once light and fluffy pancake into a watery, rubbery chew toy. It's sad. No amount of fruit drenched in syrup is gonna save that.
This must be why Flip'd is also going to offer a fair segment of things like breakfast sandwiches (the only true to-go breakfast meal), breakfast burritos (again, difficult to eat on the go), and then a litany of non-breakfast options like salads and burgers. We're gonna tell IHOP the same thing we yell at the dude in the BMW trying to zip through highway traffic at 8:15 in the morning -- pick a lane, buddy.
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