11 Delicious Facts About IHOP

The popular breakfast spot has been serving up extra-sweet pancakes—and other food, too—for over 50 years.


After serving in the army as a young man, Al Lapin Jr. attended film school at USC, which launched a brief stint in television that included producing films on surviving atomic attacks for the Federal Civil Defense Administration. He made a major career switch when he decided to launch Coffee Time, a delivery coffee service in the L.A. area. Although the venture didn’t last long, he took his respect for caffeine with him when he launched the International House of Pancakes in 1958, which instituted a policy of keeping a full pot of coffee on every table.


The IHOP blue roof then & now! #ThrowbackThursday

Posted by IHOP on Thursday, August 29, 2013

After perfecting his pancake recipe in his mother’s kitchen, Lapin and his brother Jerry were ready to open their first International House of Pancakes. For the original location, opened using $25,000, they chose a spot in Toluca Lake in Los Angeles County intentionally close to a Bob's Big Boy with the hopes of catching any customer overflow. And for aesthetics, they took a cue from Howard Johnson’s by adding an orange roof accent.


In 1973, a marketing program introduced the acronym that has all but supplanted the full name.


Starting in 1983, the then-bloated company restructured itself, closing all the unprofitable locations and renovating those that remained. The updates included muting the décor, adding more seating (especially two-tops), and splitting the kitchen in two. All the kitchens were redesigned to feature two identical mini kitchens so that during slow stretches, one of them could be closed to cut down on operating costs.


Part of the early ‘80s plan to revitalize IHOP included expanding the lunch and dinner offerings, which had long been a weak spot for the company. However, to keep costs low, then-CEO Richard K. Herzer dictated that all menu additions would have to be cook-able using only existing kitchen equipment—which didn’t include ovens at any of the locations.


In 2007, IHOP Corp. purchased Applebee's International Inc. for $2.04 billion. At the time, the two brands combined to have more than 3250 restaurants, making IHOP the then-largest full-service restaurant company anywhere in the world.


In 2011, New York City’s East Village got its very own IHOP. Before it even opened, owners were worried about what the city that never sleeps would do in the presence of 24-hour access to pancakes, so they hired a late-night bouncer. But almost immediately after the restaurant opened, neighbors complained that the issue wasn’t rowdy drunks in search of a breakfast fix, it was the bacon smell. Nearby residents reported that they had to move to escape the nauseating scent of perpetual pork fat. Just eight months after it opened, IHOP announced plans to install a $42,000 odor-killing machine known as the "smog-hog."


In at least one instance, IHOP’s pancakes have proven scientifically useful. In 2003, a pair of scientists from Southwest Texas State University and Arizona State University set out to settle once and for all whether or not Kansas is, as the saying goes, “flatter than a pancake.” Using a flapjack from IHOP and a confocal laser microscope, they mapped the topography of a pancake and compared the relative change in elevation to data for Kansas from the U.S. Geological Survey. It turns out, not only is Kansas—and many other states—much flatter than an IHOP pancake, an IHOP pancake isn’t all that flat.

"People just look down at their pancake," one of the scientists said. "They don't look at it carefully. If you were an ant climbing, it would be incredibly difficult to navigate. There are bubbles and ridges, and it usually bulges in the middle. I'm not arguing it's a mountain, but it's not a piece of paper either."


In 2013, IHOP’s menu got a makeover courtesy of an unnamed "expert in menu creative development." The old version, it turned out, had too many words and not enough pizzazz. The company credits color-coding, clearly divided sections, and lots of mouth-watering photos for a 3.6 percent increase in same-store sales in the months following the design update.


IHOP has occasionally come under fire for what some deem as insensitive tweets, but the breakfast brand has been largely finding success with their attempts to reach a younger demographic. Their Twitter adopted the voice of a "teenage hip-hop fan," as Adweek called it, in 2014, earning over 26,000 retweets for such sentiments as "Pancakes on fleek" and "dat stack tho." And in 2015, they updated their logo for the first time in over 20 years to include a smiling face that references emoticons.


Vermont was the final state to add an IHOP location and when they finally did, in 2009, the general manager insisted on special accommodations. In addition to the many artificially-flavored corn syrups characteristic of IHOP offerings (with such flavors as boysenberry and blueberry), Vermont’s restaurant included real maple syrup. For an extra 99 cents, customers can top their International pancakes with the local sweet stuff—making them the only location out of IHOP’s then-1400 restaurants to offer real syrup.  

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More


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20 Fall Harvest Words and Their Origins


Thanksgiving originated as a way to celebrate, and enjoy, all the fruits and vegetables harvested this time of year. But the fall harvest doesn’t let word lovers go hungry: it yields a cornucopia of etymological roots as well. Feast on the bounty of these seasonal word origins.

1. Artichoke

Artichoke ultimately comes from the Arabic al-harshuf, “the artichoke.” The word, and plant, passed into Spanish, Italian, and then English, as archicokk, in the 1530s. Speakers tried to explain its unusual name with folk etymologies: The plant’s center would choke anyone who tried to eat it, or it chokes the growth of other plants in the garden. These folk beliefs are preserved in the modern spelling.

2. and 3. Scallion and Shallot

Scallions and shallots may be two different species of onion, but they share a common root: the Vulgar Latin cepa escalonia, the “Ascalonian onion.” Ascalon is modern-day Ashkelon, an Israeli coastal city and a historically important seaport, apparently, for trading the likes of scallions and shallots. The Latin cepa, for onion, is also the source of another name for the scallion, chive.

4. Onion

If we peel back the etymological layers of onion, we find the Latin unio, which named both a pearl and a type of onion. Unio probably sprouts from unus, Latin for “one,” the idea being that this vegetable’s layers all comprise a single whole.

5. Fennel

Fennel looks like an onion, but it’s actually in the carrot family. Appearances, though, are still the key to the origin of this word. Fennel, which is documented in English as early as 700, comes from a diminutive form of Latin faenum, for hay, which the plant’s feathery foliage and aroma evokes.

6. Carrot

Speaking of carrots, this orange vegetable is rooted in the Greek karaton. The origin of the Greek word is unclear. It could be from an Indo-European root ker, for horn, thanks to its shape. Ker could also mean head, possibly alluding to the way the carrot grows—and making a red-headed carrot-top etymologically redundant.

7., 8., 9., and 10. Kale, Collard, Kohlrabi, and Cauliflower

These seasonal superfoods have a super-etymology. Latin had a word caulis, for stem, stalk, or cabbage, which produced quite the lexical bumper crop.

Old Norse borrowed caulis as kal, source of the word kale and the cole in coleslaw. In English, cole itself was an old word for cabbage as well as other leafy greens, like colewort, which American English speakers came to pronounce as collard, hence collard greens.

Kohlrabi literally means “cabbage-turnip” in German, cultivating its kohl from an Italian descendant of the original Latin caulis. And cauliflower, from Modern Latin cauliflora, is simply “cabbage flower.”

11. Cabbage

If Latin’s caulis means cabbage, what does cabbage mean? Head, from the Old French caboce, in turn from the Latin caput. It doesn’t take too much imagination to understand why the Romans so named this heavy and round vegetable.

12. Turnip

A turnip is a neep that looks like its been “turned” into its round shape, or so some etymologists guess. Neep comes from the Latin napus, a kind of turnip.

13. Parsnip

This vegetable was once believed to be a kind of turnip, and so was made to look like turnip as a word. (The parsnip is actually related to the carrot while the turnip is related to the cabbage.) Parsnip stems from pastinaca, the Latin name for the vegetable, which may be related to pastinum, a two-pronged tool used to harvest tubers like parsnips.

14. and 15. Radish and Rutabaga

The roots of these roots are “roots.” Radish comes from the Latin radix, a root, both botanically and metaphorically, as we can see in derivatives like radical and eradicate. This radix, according to Indo-European scholars, grows from a more ancient soil: wrad, believed to mean root or branch. Wrad is featured in another vegetal word: rutabaga, which English took from the Swedish rotabagge by the 1780s. Rotabagge literally means “root bag,” with bag a kind of bundle in Old Norse.

16. and 17. Pumpkin and Squash

If you thought turnips and parsnips were all mixed up, then have a look at pumpkin. English immediately carved pumpkin out of French and Latin roots. The word’s ending, -kin, is influenced by a Germanic suffix for "little," also seen in words like napkin. The ultimate root is the Greek pepon, meaning “ripe” and related to its verb for "cook."

A Greek pepon was a kind of melon enjoyed when ripe. And the word melon, squashed from the Greek melopepon, literally means “ripe apple.” So, etymologically, a pumpkin is a melon, which is an apple. Early British colonists applied the word pumpkin—which, to make things more confusing, is technically a fruit—for the type of squash they encountered in the Americas.

Squash has nothing to do with smashing pumpkins. The word is shortened from the Algonquian askutasquash, literally “green things that may be eaten raw,” as the Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology glosses it.

18. Potato

You say potato, I say batata. Christopher Columbus is said to have brought the word batata back from his voyages. The batata, probably from the Haitian Taíno language, was actually a kind of sweet potato. Later, Spanish conquistadors brought what we commonly think of as the potato back from South America, where it was called papa in the Quechuan language. Botanically, sweet potatoes and potatoes are completely unrelated, but that didn’t stop English speakers from confusing them by using the word potato as a common term.

19. Yam

Sweet potatoes aren’t a type of potato—and nor are they yams, even if we insist on calling them so. Yam crops up as inany in 1588, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a borrowing of the Portuguese inhame or Spanish igname, possibly from a word in West African languages meaning “to eat.” Because of the slave trade, yam may have been directly borrowed from a West African language in American and Jamaican English.

20. Beet

Beet comes from the Old English bete, in turn from the Latin beta. These words just mean, for a refreshing change, beet. But even the humble beet has its baggage. The word was common in Old English but disappeared from the existing record until about the 1400s. It seems the English language didn’t much want to eat its vegetables in the late Middle Ages.