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IHOP President: Millennials are 'our sweet spot'

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

Millennials love their pancakes, and IHOP is more than happy to serve them.

The California-based breakfast chain said that half of its guests are millennials, leaving them in a “sweet spot” to grow in the highly competitive restaurant space.

“I can’t really speak for other casual dining brands, but what I can tell you for IHOP is that over 50% of our guests are aged 35 years and younger,” Darren Rebelez, President of IHOP, told Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith on Midday Movers.

“We’re very unique in the casual dining and particularly in family dining space, where you’ll see just about the opposite of that.”

Miss America Nina Davuluri (L) and IHOP storeowner Sam Soleimani support IHOP’s National Pancake Day fundraiser in L.A. held at IHOP on March 4, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

In a report by the United States Department of Agriculture last year, millennials were found to prefer eating out compared to other age groups. The average millennial dines at a restaurant or buys takeout five times a week, according to a survey by Bankrate.com.

“We’ve always had the millennials, and we resonate with them,” Rebelez said. “Now they’re really kind of coming into our sweet spot, where now they’re a little bit older, they’re starting to form families of their own, they’re having their own kids, and now, they’re bringing their kids back into IHOP as well.”

He added: “We think we have a long runway with millennials.”

IHOP President Darren Rebelez on Yahoo Finance’s Midday Movers.

Eating up the competition

Rebelez also added that while the restaurant industry was highly competitive, there was still space to grow.

The $800 billion industry had over a million restaurants and employs 10% of the overall US workforce, according to the National Restaurant Association.

In February, IHOP’s parent company Dine Brands (DIN) closed 40 stores IHOP stores and 80 Applebee’s restaurants in an attempt to streamline the company to make it more profitable.

Rebelez said the only way to grow was to win diners from other restaurants.

“In the restaurant industry in general, the way we view that space is that — this is a battle for market share,” said Rebelez. “There is no net-new-diners out there, and there’s been an influx of restaurants over the last number of years. So if we’re going to grow our business, we’re going to take it from somebody else.”

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