IHOP Free Pancake Day: Free flapjacks for a cause

National Free Pancake Day 2012 has IHOP giving away free pancakes to all customers. IHOP free pancakes are unlikely to run out on National Pancake Day 2012.

Image courtesy of IHOP and DineEquity
For National Pancake Day 2012, IHOP restaurants are giving away a free shortstack (as shown here) to each customer. In return, the restaurant is asking for an optional donation to a local Children's Miracle Network hospital.

New Years’ weight-loss resolutions be darned. For once, you can feel good about eating a stack of pancakes.

The seventh annual National Pancake Day is Tuesday, Feb. 28, and IHOP is celebrating by giving a free short stack to every customer that drops by. In return, the California-based restaurant chain is asking for an optional donation to a local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital or other local charity.

For those unfamiliar with pancake nomenclature, a “short stack” generally includes two to three pancakes (IHOP’s has three). The promotion runs from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

National Pancake Day caps off a month-long charity drive at IHOP for Children’s Miracle Network and a few other children’s charities in areas without a hospital. “There are a few pockets around the country where it’s different. Like in Texas, it’s the Shriners Hospital, but generally the charities have the goal of helping children,” says Patrick Lenow, a spokesman for DineEquity, the corporate entity of the IHOP chain.

However, 70 percent of the proceeds raised come on National Pancake Day, which is also far and away IHOP’s busiest day of the year.  

“Depending on the restaurant, it’s double or triple the typical day's business," Mr. Lenow says. "Because of that, many of the restaurants have a wait throughout the day.”

Despite all the free pancakes, he admits, it’s one of the chain’s more profitable days as well. “We do this for all the right reasons, but it’s a win-win. Most guests buy an orange juice or something to go with it, but many go ahead and make a meal out of it." 

IHOP doesn’t worry about restaurants running out of free food (one of the glories of using pancakes for a promotion like this is that it’s always possible to make more). Still if you want to get your free flapjacks, you’ll have to wait longest if you go during the 7 a.m. breakfast rush or in the early evening, when most people will be getting off work. For the shortest wait, Lenow suggests, go in the mid-afternoon, after the lunch rush has settled down.

The restaurant’s relationship with the hospital network started in 2006, when the two organizations teamed up for the first National Pancake Day. “We chose Children’s Miracle Network because it’s big,” says Mr. Lenow. “With 170 hospitals, they have one in almost every community that we have restaurants. All the money raised stays local. That’s important to guests, especially because we’re a mostly franchised company.”

IHOP has more than 1,500 locations in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and the US Virgin Islands. Independent franchisers own 99 percent of those locations. 

Since IHOP first celebrated National Pancake Day six years ago, the restaurant has raised approximately $8 million for the charity, and expects to raise about $2.7 million this year – a projected 10 percent increase over 2010. The money stays local, going to the nearest hospital.

Need a reminder? You can go to IHOP’s website and sign up for a pre-recorded “Celebrity wake up call” from a wide range of famous voices, including Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young,  singer Marie Osmond, “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks, and “Twilight” star Boo Boo Stewart, among others.

To find the free pancakes closest to you, visit ihoplocator.com and type in your Zip Code.

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