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Virtual_Dining_Concepts_IHOP_partner.jpg Photo courtesy of Virtual Dining Concepts
IHOP is adding two new virtual brands from Virtual Dining Concepts, while expanding its existing Pardon My Cheesecake presence.

IHOP expands its virtual restaurant brands lineup

IHOP is expanding its partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts to grow Pardon My Cheesecake and add NASCAR Refuel and MLB Ballpark Bites to its system.

IHOP and Virtual Dining Concepts today announced the expansion of their partnership to add two new VDC brands available for delivery from IHOP restaurants nationwide, while expanding an existing virtual brand. The partnership includes the introduction NASCAR Refuel Tenders & Burgers and MLB Ballpark Bites Presented by Mastercard. The latter was created in partnership with Major League Baseball, while NASCAR Refuel was first created by VDC in 2021. 

The partnership also expands VDC’s Pardon My Cheesecake, first launched with IHOP in Q1 2023.

All three brands are now available at select IHOP locations, with plans for a broader rollout throughout this year; as of Q1 2024, Pardon My Cheesesteak was being served at over 900 IHOP locations, while NASCAR Refuel Tender & Burgers were in over 400 locations, with an additional 130 locations slated for the near future.  

"Our off-premises channels continue to deliver incremental sales and profits to our franchisees and the IHOP brand. Our work with VDC and the three brands we're implementing will be a growth driver for our restaurants, specifically as we look at non-peak hours during lunch, dinner, and late night," IHOP President Jay Johns said in a statement. "These new brands are relevant for today's consumer and perfect for our existing equipment and capabilities in our restaurants nationwide."

Like many chains, IHOP began testing virtual brands during the pandemic, including a grilled cheese concept called Thrilled Cheese, and a quesadilla concept called Super Mega Dilla. The company gradually added TenderFix and Pardon My Cheesesteak to the mix. Executives have noted that the virtual brand model complements IHOP’s existing operations and maximizes the back-of-house during off-peak hours at IHOP with minimal SKU additions. Last year, John Peyton, CEO of parent company Dine Brands, said virtual brands enhance IHOP’s business strategy.

“We believe virtual brands are part of what’s propelling that business. They enable us to expand our reach and allow us to be top-of-mind for more customers,” he said. “We remain bullish on the opportunity virtual brands present.”

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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