IHOP became IHOb this week, and many have expressed strong feelings on the name change. But few have stronger feelings about the temporary name change than Connecticut resident Jerry Lapin, one of the restaurant chain’s co-founders.
"IHOP. You don't fool around with that,” said Lapin, of South Glastonbury.
In 1958, Lapin co-founded the future restaurant chain with his older brother Al and another childhood friend. Lapin was just thinking about starting his career when he returned home from the Korean War — he had a Purple Heart and a Silver Star medal, but no job.
After trying their hand at the coffee business, the Lapin brothers opened their first International House of Pancakes. Lapin said the lawyers wanted a less generic name, and so IHOP was born.
"You couldn't spell out 'International House of Pancakes' on a sign, you had to put IHOP,” Lapin said.
The first IHOP was located outside of Burbank, Calif., across the street from a popular Bob’s Big Boy restaurant.
"The theory was we'll get their overflow. We didn't get their overflow. We were killing it,” Lapin recalled.
Within a few years, the company went on the stock exchange. Lapin still has the original ticker tape. That was a lifetime ago for Lapin, but hearing about the chain’s name change still steams him.
"People spend millions of dollars trying to get an iconic name and you have one. What are you doing?"
Other restaurant chains also jokingly questioned the name change on Twitter which brought a smile to Lapin's face.
IHOb is a four-letter word that he has a hard time digesting. But all of this free publicity could be an acquired taste for a man who knows all of the original ingredients for IHOP’s success.
"It was a national guessing contest. What's the B for? How much money would you have had to spend?" he said. "And whoever figured it out is either a genius or a nutjob, I'm not sure which."
Lapin sold his share of IHOP in 1966. He said he and his brother had a disagreement over where they were taking the company, and he didn’t want to divide the family.
Since then, the 88-year-old New York native started a number of other restaurants and businesses around the world.
He and his wife eventually settled in Connecticut to be near family. Their son is a doctor in Hartford.