Butter, Syrup, and Pancakes! Oh my!


The month of March is no longer solely reserved for four-leafed clovers and pots of gold. In recent years,National Pancake Day has taken the U.S. by storm.

In 2006, the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) started a national day for free pancakes to fundraise for children’s hospitals and other non-profit children’s charities. Once a year on March 8, IHOP offers a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes to any customer who visits one of the 1,650 restaurants in the nation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m..

From the inception of the food day, IHOP has continually stated that fundraising is more important that the free pancakes. The breakfast food chain fundraised over $3.5 million for children’s charities by asking diners for donations last year.

After hearing the hype of National Pancake Day, I decided to see what it was all about. I took the short drive from Cal State Long Beach over to the IHOP on Bellflower Boulevard and Stearns Street and tried to find a place to park. It quickly became apparent that my trip to IHOP would not be a quick one. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw the line of hungry customers snaking its way around the side of the building.

Finally, I made it inside the threshold, and the smell of pancakes hit me like right away. All around the inside foyer, paper balloons covered the walls. The balloons represented one dollar donations to the various charities that IHOP supports. The host sat me at a small table for two where I waited for the server to take my order.

The server, Natalie, walked up with a smile on her face, but after a long shift on one of IHOP’s busiest days of the year, I could tell she was exhausted. I ordered my free pancakes and a cup of coffee, and not more than 5 minutes later my food arrived. The pancakes, clad with a dollop of salted butter, seemed smaller than I remembered IHOP pancakes to be, but hey, they were free.

The biggest challenge of the evening was not waiting in line, but deciding what syrup to use. Maple, blueberry, strawberry or butter pecan? The possibilities seemed endless. Ultimately, I decided to take things old-school and went with original maple syrup.

The short stack of two pancakes went just as fast as they arrived, and after about 20 minutes at the table, I was ready for the check. At the register the cashier asked if I would like to donate a dollar to charity, and after a almost entirely free meal, how could I say no? I signed my name on a colorful paper in the shape of a balloon and the cashier taped it on the wall.

Ultimately, National Pancake Day is one of IHOP’s most lucrative marketing ploy, but it benefits more than just the company, it raises millions of dollars each year for hospitalized children and feeds pancakes to millions of hungry Americans. My experience at IHOP might have been just one in 3 million, but I walked away feeling charitable and full-a pretty nice combo. I would say National Pancake Day 2016 was a success!

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