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IHOP_image_for_Stacking_Up_Joy.png Photo courtesy of IHOP
In addition to IHOP’s new Stacking Up Joy campaign, the company is hosting its annual National Pancake Day celebration Feb. 13, with the help of actress Xochitl Gomez.

IHOP leverages its new tech stack to launch a community platform

Stacking Up Joy will help the company raise money for local Feeding America chapters and is enabled by the systemwide rollout of a new POS system.

IHOP has spent the past several quarters rolling out a new point-of-sale system nationwide and now that this process is mostly complete, the company has plans for bigger things enabled by the new integrated technology. The first priority is the rollout of a new community platform, called Stacking Up Joy, inviting guests to add $1 or more to their checks in-store or online, with money raised going toward Feeding America.

Stacking Up Joy was launched not only to coincide with the chain’s new POS, but also its Month of Giving. During a recent interview, IHOP CMO Kieran Donahue said this is the first time the 65-plus-year-old brand has rolled out a true community platform to maximize the community work historically done by individual restaurants and franchisees.

“We have supported a national charity on National Pancake Day, but one of the important things about creating this platform is we could create a way to ensure what we were doing was more representative to the communities we operate in,” Donahue said. “Having a local focus is important because it’s where our franchisees work and live. We’ve always done a lot in those communities but haven’t had the platform to express that. Stacking Up Joy wraps it all up in a nice stack so we can be much more deliberate and focused about what we do.”

Feeding America was chosen as the charity to kick off this platform because of its nationwide network of more than 200 local food banks. One-dollar donations provide at least 10 meals secured by Feeding America that go toward those local banks.

“Feeding America’s mission is to end hunger. We serve food and take care of hungry families. This is what we do naturally, and we felt that it made sense for who we are at our core,” Donahue said.

That said, Feeding America won’t likely be the only partnership for IHOP through Stacking Up Joy. The POS integration makes any future campaign easier, both for guests and franchisees, which is what makes all of this especially exciting for the team.

“This will allow us to continue supporting communities and causes and different moments throughout the year. It allows us to be more flexible and to adapt,” Donahue said.

Franchisees can call for donations through the platform if there is a hurricane in their local community, for example. Or, the company will be better positioned to take advantage of cultural moments where appropriate. Donahue points to the 2021 incident in which an IHOP hostess didn’t recognize actor Adam Sandler and turned him away. To make up for it, the company launched a campaign where every dollar of milkshake sales went toward a charity called Comedy Gives Back.

“Feeding America is our launch partner, but there are so many other possibilities with this platform because of our new POS system. It allows us to tap into the core of who we are,” she said.

The possibilities of the POS

The POS implementation began prior to Donahue’s arrival in early 2021 and is part of a bigger tech stack strategy at IHOP and its parent company, Dine Brands. Its rollout will not only allow the brand to better tap into philanthropic and cultural moments, but also better support the International Bank of Pancakes, IHOP’s loyalty program launched in 2022 that now counts about 7 million members. From this integration, IHOP will be better equipped to gain data about those members and to continue focusing on menu innovations they want based on what is selling through the POS. For its “largest menu evolution” initiative, launched last April, IHOP relied heavily on customer research and the effort has driven sales growth and attracted younger consumers.

“We are investing in growth through technology, not for the sake of technology but to enable better guest experiences and better operational experiences for our franchisees,” Donahue said. “Our website and app had to be built with this tech stack in mind. When we built our loyalty program, we had to make sure it went into the POS. Everything connects together. What’s great about this is we are better able to connect to guests one-on-one. That’s been a key for us.”

Another advantage of having this POS in place is IHOP is now able to equip its servers with ordering tablets which, Donahue says, has led to faster service times. It’s early days with this tech stack, but she said there is much more to come because “the foundation is now in place.”

“We’ll continue to get more value out of our loyalty program and use that to meet guests where they are, and use the program to recognize and incentivize members,” Donahue said. “You can count on us to always be researching and understanding what the guest needs. We have some fun things coming this year.”

National Pancake Day promotion

An added layer of this campaign is IHOP’s annual National Pancake Day celebration, Feb. 13. To draw attention to this day and Stacking Up Joy, the brand has recruited actress Xochitl Gomez to help bring attention to the cause and is also offering a free short stack of pancakes for dine-in guests on Feb. 13 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“I am excited to work with IHOP this month for their Month of Giving campaign and in celebration of the best day of the year, National Pancake Day,” Gomez said in a statement. “Growing up, I’ve always enjoyed dining with my family and friends at IHOP. IHOP’s Month of Giving campaign is the perfect combination of eating at my favorite restaurant, giving back to the community, and leaving with a smile and full heart.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]


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