Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flapjacks for flyers?

IHOPs may soon be firing up the griddle at airports, travel plazas and other alternatives to the usual street-side location. The pancake chain said it plans to pursue nontraditional sites as a result of hiring Bill Alexander, a longtime Brinker International veteran, as its new vice president of franchising and business development.

Brinker’s workhorse brand, Chili’s, has been a standout success among full-service concepts in developing airport locations. Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Alexander’s previous charge, recently started opening units in those venues.

IHOP didn’t say if the push for alternative locations will bring more IHOP Cafes, the mini-units that a franchisee has opened in San Antonio. The two stores currently open feature a limited menu of items like “mini-melts,” wraps, smoothies and coffee based drinks.

Family specialists like IHOP have lately been pursuing alternative sites and more engaging formats as means of reinvigorating the wheezing segment. Denny’s, for instance, has been experimenting with grab-and-go variations of the familiar coffee shop, and recently agreed to take over more than 130 truck-stop restaurants that had been operated by the bankrupt Flying J chain. It also opened one a scaled-down unit on a college campus in San Bernardino, Calif.

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