Once an integral part of American dining habits, breakfast chains have fallen out of favor with younger generations. The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) has tried to reverse this trend and rebrand itself to cater to younger customers by opening its fast-casual offshoot Flip’d. Now, IHOP is testing a plant-based breakfast sandwich that aims to bridge the gap between the beloved legacy brand and the younger American customer who thinks a "stack" is a term for software.

The breakfast chain just announced its testing a Plant Based Cali sandwich at the Flip’d by IHOP location in the Flatiron neighborhood of New York City. The Plant Based Cali will feature a vegan breakfast sausage from Sweet Earth, a JUST Egg mung bean-based egg, arugula, roasted tomatoes, and avocado. The new breakfast sandwich will be available for a limited time at the NYC location, but could potentially expand nationwide.

Operated by franchisee Bryan McKenzie, the Flip’d fast-casual concept is attempting to make IHOP’s menu more approachable to a new generation of customers. By introducing a plant-based menu item, McKenzie hopes that it will attract people to visit the new restaurant concept. After two years of product development, the IHOP culinary team perfect the vegan breakfast sandwich.

“Consumer demand is shifting to healthier menu options, specifically plant-based items,” McKenzie told VegNews. “So we decided that Flip’d was the perfect fit to introduce this new menu item.”

Historically, IHOP has fallen short in successfully rebranding its company model to appeal to younger generations, but plant-based foods could be the company’s saving grace: A recent report found that 7.5 percent of Millenials and Gen-Z consumers in America have given up meat, whereas only 2.5 percent of Americans over 50 consider themselves vegetarian. The trend indicates that consumers are increasingly looking for meatless and plant-based options.

Gen-Z consumers have broken records when it comes to plant-based eating. A report found that nearly 65 percent of Gen-Z Americans want a more plant-forward diet with 79 percent already eating meatless once or twice a week. IHOP’s current plant-based selection is extremely limited, giving consumers concerned with health or sustainability little reason to visit pancake house.

Animal-rights groups Animal Outlook and Vegan Outreach attempted to hold the company accountable in 2019 when the two organizations launched a joint petition that urged IHOP to add vegan options to its plant-barren menu. Once the petition garnered more than 20,000 signatures, the chain responded that it was “closely looking into” plant-based options.

“Pancakes have been around for centuries and are a beloved breakfast staple across the nation,” the petition stated. “But surprisingly, one of the country’s most well-known pancake giants, IHOP, does not offer a vegan version of the popular treat for the millions of conscious consumers who are hungry for plant-based options.”

Diner Chains Go Plant-Based

IHOP's vegan venture follows closely behind one of America's most expansive diner chains, Denny's. Late last year, the national 24-hour diner chain announced that it would be exploring more plant-based offerings. Denny's first introduced the Beyond Meat Burger to its menus in 2019, which experienced a widespread positive response from its customers. Now, pressure from the animal rights group Mercy For Animals has accelerated the company's plant-based development.

“Denny’s famously serves breakfast all day, so a plant-based entrée on their iconic breakfast menu would significantly increase access to delicious vegan options. Imagine a fully plant-based Grand Slam or maybe a Moons Over My Plant-Based Sammie?” MFA Corporate Partnerships Manager Erin Kwiatkowski told VegNews. “By committing to add a plant-based protein to their breakfast menu, Denny’s is setting a precedent for what people looking for plant-based options should expect from these family dining establishments. We shouldn’t have to settle.”

The 6 Best Fast Food Chains With Plant-Based Options on the Menu

Fast-food restaurants have finally got the memo that their customer base isn’t just coming through for a burger, fried chicken, or a beef taco. Many now have plant-based foods and are coming up with creative, delicious ways to get more greens on the menu. Here are the 6 best fast-food chains with plant-based options on the menu.

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