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Fast-casual, to-go IHOP Express opens in San Diego

November 18, 2011 | 10:16 am

IHOP is targeting the Panera and Chipotle crowd with a fast-casual “Express” version of its standard sit-down restaurants.

Customers at the new model, first tested at college campuses and military bases and now open in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, order at a counter for food that they can take on the go.

Instead of IHOP’s usual sprawling platters, menu items such as the Cup O’ Pancakes and the Ham & Cheese Crepette will be served in smaller portions and at lower prices.

IHOP still plans to open at least one of its normal-sized stores each week for the rest of the year. The 53-year-old chain has more than 1,500 locations around the country.

But slowing traffic caused by the economy along with changing consumer tastes have caused the casual, sit-down dining industry to falter. Many diners have defected to fast-casual chains, which are known for offering a lower price-point along with speed and quality.

So table-service restaurants such as IHOP are copying the competition.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers this month revealed a fast-casual concept called Red Robin’s Burger Works, where is Banzai beef burger is $5.99 compared with nearly $10 at the original restaurants. 

Starting in Orange County last year, Denny’s Corp. began opening Denny’s Cafés featuring streamlined menus, counter order and smaller buildings in an attempt to break into tightly-packed urban markets.


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Photo: IHOP's Pancake Stackers. Credit: Associated Press / IHOP Restaurants