It began in 2010 with Tater Tots. The plate was loaded with cheese sauce, bacon, tomatoes, and an array of other cheesy and spicy ingredients. Warm dough bites sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and cream cheese frosting. Fluffy lemon pancakes topped with triple berry compote and creamy whipped topping. All sound delicious, right? Twelve years and seven films later, IHOP’s Minion-inspired summer menu is still pretty much the same.
The latest version of the cross-promotional menu has no lemons. Instead, it has bananas. Lots of bananas. Whipped cream, sprinkles, hash browns, eggs, and bacon still reign supreme, as do the extra sweet OJ splashers and milkshakes.
Since the movie debuted on July 1, Minions: The Rise of Gru has earned an astonishing $533 million at the box office. The popularity of the family film was only amplified when young adults, following the “Gentleminions” TikTok trend, began showing up at movie theaters dressed up in suits. Universal Pictures responded to this virality with enthusiasm on Twitter.
Caught up in Minions madness, my kids wanted to see the movie. (Luckily for them and for me, they did not embrace the Gentleminions idea). After the movie, we hopped over to IHOP to try out the new Minions-inspired menu. The sign on the restaurant’s window proclaims “Kids eat free!” (Disclosure: with the purchase of one adult entrée, and only between 4-10 p.m.), so I was more than ready to experience what IHOP had to offer.
As my kids and I settled into our booth, I began chatting with our server, Deborah, who told me she’s been working at IHOP for eighteen years. So she’s been around for all of the Minions madness, beginning in 2010 when IHOP first debuted its Minions menu alongside the first film. I asked her if the Minions menu was a draw for diners.
“Oh yes, it’s very popular,” said Deborah. She went on to tell me about how IHOP used to have a special Minions T-shirt for employees to wear, but not anymore; asked why, she explained that her boss has to order them. I guess this year the boss never got around to it. The menu will be available through August 21.
If you’ve ever seen one of these movies, you’ll know that Minions are tiny little creatures who always seem to get themselves into trouble. They are always talking nonsense, always looking to please, all for the greater good (or, occasionally, the greater evil). Similarly, IHOP—a chain whose earliest claim to fame is the Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity—is all about family and always has been. The chain encourages us to come as we are and “savor every moment.” Take it easy. Don’t worry too much. Put a smile on your plate. Have some fun, for crying out loud… just like the Minions always do.
When the food came out, my kids, ages six and nine, took a bite of their Mischievous Minion Kids Combos and immediately declared it “Yummy!” Which is great, because I was not so impressed by my own meal. The bacon in my Ba-Ba Banana Pudding Pancake Combo tasted like construction paper, the hash browns were undercooked, and while the eggs appeared sunny side up (just the way I like them), they were merely lukewarm. The pancakes are another story.
On a later date, I took my partner and my mother, two individuals with no Minions madness in them whatsoever, back to IHOP for a taste of the menu. Their responses echoed my own feelings about purely promotional pancakes.
Turns out, I’m not the only one. On Twitter, for example, a user recently tweeted about being “utterly appalled” by the menu, displaying unimpressive photos, quite similar to the food I received. And on TikTok, user _.carolime._ posted a short video showing an undercooked Minions meal, prompting thousands of comments and a reply from IHOP itself.
Dining out, especially for families, has been on the decline. Market research firm NPD Group recently found that “Traffic from households with kids under age 6 was down 8% in April, compared to April 2021, and traffic from households with kids ages 6-12 was down 9%,” writes Nation’s Restaurant News.
“Restaurants seeking to attract young families need to focus on reducing all of the ‘pain points’ that these customers can experience,” Jennifer Loper, president of the marketing firm Creative Consumer Concepts (C3), told NRN. That means small gestures, like ensuring that kids have coloring sheets, crayons, and activities. Or it can mean a limited-time-only menu filled with whipped cream, bananas, and sprinkles.
“Young millennial and Gen Z parents are also interested in experiencing the ‘fun’ of a brand’s personality, just as their kids are,” NRN said. As Loper explained it, “Something that never changes about kids is that they want to have fun, and there are so many ways to manifest that.”
Bottom line: Bacon, eggs, pancakes, sausages, and whipped cream are pretty standard breakfast fare, and the Minions branding doesn’t do much to amp them up. Maybe I’m just too old for this. Or maybe it’s more of a Gen Z thing. Maybe in two or three years there’ll be another Minions movie and another limited-edition Minions menu will roll out at IHOP. And for a limited time only, I’ll be excited.
I’m perfectly happy with the Minions, these adorable little resilient yellow henchmen. It’s fun to see a movie about a tiny breed of creatures causing mayhem underneath their evil master’s tutelage. But the “Minion Madness” stops for me when the credits roll; I don’t need to supplement it with an ice-cold glass of Minionade. Perhaps the best thing about the Minions menu is that once it’s over, it’s over.