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IHOP eyes college campuses

Chain plans to add five IHOP U locations over two years

IHOP plans to grow its presence on college campuses through a partnership with Aramark and expand its name beyond the restaurants with a new licensing program, the company said Monday.

The 1,483-unit family-dining chain, owned and franchised by Glendale, Calif.-based DineEquity Inc., already includes one IHOP Express location operated by contract feeder Aramark at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. 

DineEquity spokesman Patrick Lenow said that location will be rebranded as “IHOP U,” the name the chain has designated for the limited-service variant at campus locations. 

Five more IHOP U locations are planned with Philadelphia-based Aramark over the next two years, including one already in development at Virginia Commonwealth University, IHOP said.

IHOP has been focused on bringing the brand to more non-traditional locations since last year, when the company began experimenting with an IHOP Café in San Antonio, Texas, offering a smaller footprint, a heavier focus on coffee and specialty beverages.

Also in San Antonio, the company is testing a fast-casual version of the brand called IHOP Express, with a limited menu, an even smaller footprint and an order-at-the-counter service model designed for a food court setting.

Lenow said the company is continuing to tweak the brand to develop franchise options for more types of non-traditional locations, which in future could include airports, military bases, or hospitals.

A similar strategy has been employed by family-dining competitor Denny's, which debuted an express unit for college campuses in March and this fall unveiled a fast-casual café model with a smaller footprint for urban markets.

IHOP and Aramark officials said the pancake chain’s offer of breakfast all day and late-night dining would fit well with the needs of college students.

“This is part of our long-term strategy to expand how we make the IHOP brand available to guests,” said Jean Birch, IHOP’s president. “Our current partnership with Aramark has demonstrated the benefits of making IHOP easily accessible to students and faculty through a presence on a college campus.”

In addition to expanding non-traditional locations, IHOP officials said the company is planning a licensing program that will include various retail products.

This summer, for example, an IHOP brand of flavored lip gloss targeting ‘tween girls debuted at retail chains such as Claire’s. Flavors include Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity and others that evoke signature flavors from the restaurant menu, Lenow said.

A line of toys will also be out for the holiday season, such as an IHOP coffee pot for kids and playtime versions of the “never empty coffee pot,” he added.

IHOP is also looking at the development of branded grocery products, but Lenow said the company could not reveal any plans yet.

A growing number of restaurant companies are lending their brand names to frozen and prepared food products as a means of extending brand recognition to the grocery aisles.

Companies that have introduced new branded grocery products in recent months include P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Jamba Juice, The Cheesecake Factory, Hooters, Margaritaville, Phillip’s Seafood, Uno Chicago Grill, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, T.G.I. Friday’s and Tony Roma’s.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

CORRECTION: An earlier version referred to the "never empty coffee pot" as the "endless coffee cup".

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