International House of Business Bullshit

IHOb. No it’s not the new Apple device, rather it’s the International House of Pancake’s latest grab for attention and rebranding effort. Most commentators, myself included, assume it’s going to become the International House of Breakfast. Other than breakfast, how many “B” words could it realistically be, no pun intended. Brunch? Bacon? Biscuits? Bullshit? Who really knows. But why I’m commenting on this is less because of the impact it will have on my life (local diners and breakfast eateries are far superior anyways) but because it sheds a light on how boardrooms and consultants can do some stupid shit.

Following Q1 2018 results Wall Street learned that Dine Brands (IHOP’s and Applebee’s parent) outperformed expectations for the 5th straight quarter. The core business is doing well, the economy is doing gang-busters, and other than some minor location closings to make room for a new franchise, there should be nothing to worry about, no box to check. For confirmation I look to Dine Brand’s CEO, Stephen Joyce, for their strategic goals:

  • Evolve strong brands and drive same-restaurant sales growth
  • Facilitate franchisee restaurant development
  • Maintain strong financial discipline

They have achieved many of these goals, same-restaurant sales growth for both Applebees and IHOP has increased, franchisee restaurants have expanded over 25% for IHOP and since 2013 DB has returned over $500 million to shareholders. In addition both Applebees and IHOP have held their spot as the number one restaurant in their category for the 10th year running.

By all accounts IHOP should continue to be the 24 hour safe haven for pancake and breakfast lovers everywhere. But business, and specifically consulting firms often can’t let be what they could instead profit off of. I can see the meeting now…

Consultant: As you can see, your current brand does not align with your name. You offer much more than merely pancakes to your customers. It is off-brand and hinders the potential acquisition of millennial consumers who might be averse to pancakes.

IHOP: But our customers know we serve breakfast, pancakes are only a breakfast food. For over 60 years we’ve had this name and America has continue to make it the #1 in its respective category regardless of name.

Consultant: No, it’s important in the digital era to be consistent with your branding to ensure consumers know what they are getting. Millennials need to be marketed to and we believe this is the best way to do it.

This kind of unnecessary rebranding is a leech on American businesses and represents what gives professionals services such a bad name. I hope this was merely a publicity stunt to encourage last-minute IHOP visits before the name change à la Twinkies. Or maybe IHOP is just pulling a prank and instead wants to remake their twitter account to be as active and clever as Wendy’s. Either way I hate everything this rebranding stands for and hope that businesses can resist the always present pressure to be viral and instead focus on providing quality products and services, that’s how business should be run and in turn how they should be judged by consumers.

Politry

My Grandpa, the late Ken Duncan, was a massive liberal and avid poet. From 2002 to 2009 he consistently wrote 4 – 7 poems a week about the Bush presidency and more generally about politics. He started a blog called Politry, a term he coined for the intersection of politics and poetry, where he could post poems daily rather than save them for a yearly printing or for sharing at his weekly poetry coffee chats. After rereading his 2005 edition, A Bad Year Made Verse (I guess excessive pun usage runs in the family), it got me thinking how poetry at least in some forms was the original tweet, and how far ahead of his time Grandpa Ken was. In his honor and as a great excuse to use this platform I’ve decided to continue his legacy and attempt at writing some politry. For my first post I’ll include one of my favorites by Grandpa Ken, one that is still relevant today. In the 24-hour news cycle with facts from the White House shifting from speaker to speaker it is especially important to question how important really is knowing something 6 hours earlier.

Press Freedom or Conservation?

July 11

The North Koreans agreed to
return to talks again, but this
time they set a date. The Chinese
say everyone agreed, but Rice’s
okay was confirmed anonymously.

She won’t announce until tomorrow,
but the New York Times needed to
promise confidentiality so we could
known today about an often delayed
meeting scheduled later this month.

The press wants to protect sources,
but they should have to exercise
care in selecting them. If we didn’t
get so many meaningless stories to
read we would save time and trees