Tuesday, June 18, 2013

House of Happiness: IHOP Arrives in the Philippines

The first IHOP restaurant in the Philippines at the Bonifacio High Street

            After a couple of months since it opened, American restaurant IHOP (International House of Pancakes) still has queues, especially on weekends, attesting to its popularity and the quality of its food.
It took 10 years, the last three spent in negotiating for the franchise, before IHOP, which is famous all over the world for its pancakes, omelets and breakfast items, was brought to the Philippines by Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc. (GRCI) through its subsidiary InterDine Corp., said Archie Rodriguez, its president and chief executive officer.
“IHOP has been interested in bringing the brand to this region for a number of years; Asia-Pacific and the Philippines in particular represent an enormous opportunity for the growth of the IHOP brand over the next 10 to 20 years,” Rodriguez revealed.
“Extending the unique IHOP experience into the Asia-Pacific region has long been part of our vision,” confirmed Julia Stewart, chairman and chief executive officer of DineEquity, Inc. “But the key to achieving that goal was finding the right franchisee who had the necessary experience in the area and who shared the same commitment to excellence and putting our guests first that IHOP’s reputation has been built on. With InterDine Corp. and their parent company Global Restaurant Concepts, Inc., we have found the perfect fit to bring our restaurants to this new region and extend our global brand.”
            IHOP is a welcome addition to GRCI’s restaurant franchises, which include California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang’s and Mad for Garlic, bringing in “more mainstream, comfort food.” What is more comforting than breakfast foods. Breakfast is like a drop of sunshine, sweeping away the cobwebs of sleep and lethargy. Its smells—eggs and bacon frying, bread being toasted, refreshing orange juice, garlicky fried rice, fluffy pancakes—conjure happy memories. Breakfast fares are so popular that many people want them anytime of the day. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of restaurants offering American-style breakfast all day. Thus, the opening of the first Philippine IHOP branch was warmly welcomed, aside from the fact that the global restaurant chain has built a solid reputation for good food.
            IHOP, founded by Al and Jerry Lapin, along with early investors Al and Trudy Kallis, first opened in 1958 in the Los Angeles suburb of Toluca Lake, California, United States. After two years, the company started to expand through franchising. By 1992, there were 500 stores all throughout the United States. Average sales at that time per restaurant were more than $1 million. The following years saw IHOP restaurants popping all over the world until it reached the Philippine shores.
Big Steak Omelette
           With 360 square meter of floor space and two floors, the first Philippine restaurant, which can accommodate about 160 to 180 diners, was unveiled at W Global Center at the posh Bonifacio High Street in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig City, wedged between California Pizza Kitchen and Mad for Garlic, a Korean-based Italian bistro.
            BGC has become a fast-rising lifestyle, retail and dining hub in Metro Manila in recent years. Because of its green design with open spaces and parks, it has also become a favorite place for runners. It is estimated that more than 5,000 runners a day pass by the W Global Center building, at the corner of 30th Street and 9th Avenue, as part of a morning and late afternoon jogging path, making it a prime location for IHOP.
“We are confident our guests will find that what IHOP offers—its unique world famous menu filled with items they crave, a sit-down all-day dining experience in a friendly, warm environment with food freshly prepared for every single guest will soon make IHOP their restaurant of choice over the competition,” Rodriguez averred. “And many Filipinos have visited IHOPs in the course of their travels overseas and have developed a love for the brand. In fact, a common post on the U.S. Facebook page is from Filipino guests who have been to an IHOP in America and are wondering when one will open in their own country.” 
John Merkin, IHOP’s vice president of operations and international, added, “Finding a partner with the operational capability to be able to implement and maintain the high standards that we and our guests demand was paramount in choosing the franchisee who would enable us to bring the brand to the Asia-Pacific marketplace. InterDine Corp. and Global Restaurant Concepts Inc. bring the necessary resources and experience as well as a proven record of success in establishing and running respected American restaurant brands in this region. With them as our franchisee, there are more than 100 million people in the Philippines who are about to discover why IHOP is famous the world over for great food and great service.”

Cinn-a-stack Pancakes
            Confidence in the brand and the partnership bolstered GRCI to open up more branches here as well as in other Asian countries. Manuel Zubiri, vice president of GRCI, said they are set to open four to five more branches this year, with a branch in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, next to open. A total of 20 restaurants are to open in five years, leading the way for IHOP to open in Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam, and creating over 1,000 jobs in the region.
            “IHOP sees the Philippines as a potential gateway to the rest of Asia. The Philippines in particular has a record of successfully embracing American restaurants and other products. The Philippines presents an opportunity to reach millions of potential guests, and IHOP is bringing a unique dining experience to the region that isn’t available at any of our competitors,” Rodriguez affirmed.
            Rodriquez predicted that “buttermilk pancakes, along with the other variations and our omelettes” will sell like, well, hotcakes in the Philippines. 

Eggs, bacon and hash Brown, part of Stuffed French Toast Combo
  “Pancakes are a comfort food and delicious any time of day. People choose to eat them all through the day into the late evening. By offering them as an option all through the day, people have gotten into the habit of coming to IHOP to have ‘breakfast for dinner’ as some people call it,” he said.
“The average IHOP restaurant serves more than 325,000 pancakes per year. This means the IHOP system serves in excess of 500 million pancakes annually, lathered with 250 million scoops of butter, and drizzled with two million gallons of syrup,” he further said.
In the Philippine IHOP restaurant, 70 percent of the ingredients are imported and the rest is locally sourced to preserve the integrity of taste of the original IHOP, Zubiri said. He added though that as times goes by locally sourced ingredients will increase as they find suppliers that suit their needs and standards. Not only that, in time, there is a possibly of innovations and customizations unique to the Philippine store.
“In certain locations, IHOP adjusts the menu to fit local customs and tastes. For example, in Middle East IHOPs, pork products are not served. In this region, IHOP will be offering seasonal fruits and milkshakes and a different coffee than we feature in other locations, all tailored to the tastes of our guests in this region,” Rodriguez revealed.

Funny Face
 As of now, people are more than satisfied that the IHOP goodness that millions of Americans love is now accessible. Topping the favorites is, of course, their fluffy and heavenly pancakes, using buttermilk. One can choose the classic and plain original buttermilk pancakes (P195) or those with flavors and toppings.
A bestseller is the New York Cheesecake Pancakes (P285), prepared with creamy, rich cheesecake pieces and topped with strawberries, powdered sugar and whipped cream. The Double Blueberry Pancakes (P275) has blueberries and is topped with warm blueberry compote and whipped cream. Chocolate lovers can drool over the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes (P255), which are chocolate batter pancakes filled with chocolate chips and topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream. Cinnamon roll addicts can have their fix too with the Cinn-a-stack Pancakes (P235), which is layered with cinnamon roll filling and then topped with cream cheese icing and whipped cream. Have fruits and pancakes in one with Strawberry Banana Pancakes (P265), which has fresh banana slices and is topped with strawberries, more banana slices and whipped cream. The health-conscious can opt for Harvest Grain ‘N Nut Pancakes (195) with grains, oats, almonds and English walnuts, or the whole wheat pancakes with blueberries (P225).

Garden Stuffed Crepes
             Another perennial favorite is the omelette and IHOP offers it mixed with its famous buttermilk and wheat pancake butter to make fluffier omelette, and with many varieties: Big Steak Omelette (P325) with strips of steak, hash browns, green pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheddar cheese; Bacon Temptation Omelette (P285) with bacon strips, diced tomatoes and cheese sauce; Country Omelette (P265) with ham, hash browns, onion and cheese and sour cream topping; and Chicken Fajiota Omelette (P265) with grilled fajita seasoned chicken breast strips, green pepper, onion, cheese blend, salsa and sour cream topping. They also have vegetarian omelette and healthy omelette varieties. Also, diners can create your own omelette from a list of ingredients.

New York Cheesecake Pancakes
             Rodriguez revealed that these two well-love items are in IHOP’s menu since the beginning.
“If you look back at the menu from 1955, the year the first IHOP opened in Toluca Lake, California, there are a number of items that you can still find on the menu. Buttermilk pancakes, of course, waffles and omelets have been featured throughout the last 55 years, as have the waffles, chocolate chip pancakes and several other favorites. IHOP is always innovating their menu, adding new items that become favorites like stuffed French toast, and introducing signature pancakes that appear for a limited time.  These have included everything from carrot cake pancakes to pineapple upside down pancakes,” he said.

Simple and Fit Omelette
              The menu is packed with mouthwatering items such as French toasts, waffles, oatmeal, hash browns, sandwiches, sweet and savory crepes, hamburgers, breakfast combinations (French toast, hash brown, eggs, bacon and sausages, for example), steak combinations (T-bone steak, eggs and pancakes, for example) and items for kids. Many of these items have the Simple and Fit options, which use low-calorie and low-carbohydrate ingredients. Customers can ask for egg substitute or low-calorie eggs, sugar substitutes, sugar-free syrup, turkey bacons, etc. Also, be sure to watch out for new items. Need I remind that these are available all day?  

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