Ever since IHOP swapped pancakes for burgers (at least, in its name), social media has been on fire. The restaurant has been dealing with Twitter backlash from customers as well as jeers from its peers. But with low foot traffic plaguing the entire restaurant industry, IHOP’s publicity stunt could let the breakfast purveyor have the last laugh.
In the past, IHOP has boasted best-in-class features to entice visitors to spend more time on its site, including an exceptional restaurant locator with order-for-delivery functionality and an option to send directions to a phone. Many restaurant brands analyzed in Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Restaurants don’t capitalize on digital opportunities, even those with apps. A number lack adequate incentives for customers to dine in-restaurant, and less than half of brands offer rewards programs to encourage loyalty. It’s no surprise that as of last year, the restaurant industry experienced lower in-store sales than ever.
IHOP’s letter swap seemed nonsensical to many, but one thing is for sure: it cooked up massive digital buzz. Online mentions of the brand totaled 362,000 from June 3 through June 11, significantly up from 21,000 during the same period in May, according to social-media monitoring firm Brandwatch. But only time and taste buds will tell if great fascination comes with a side of foot traffic.