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Breakfast with a Side of Sexism

Charlotte A. Brooks

Carthage College


In 2014, American Restaurant IHOP found their Twitter voice when they tweeted pancakes on

fleek for their many followers. However, later the following year, the restaurant posted a

controversial tweet featuring a picture of their pancakes with the caption flat but has a GREAT

personality (IHOP, 2015). The restaurant chain received many complaints regarding this post,

and decided to post an apology and delete the tweet. The company should have taken a more

strategic approach to relating to millennials, without being so controversial. To elaborate upon

and exemplify this idea, this paper uses Dennys, a comparable restaurant, to show a humorous

and youthful approach to social media management without being controversial.


Breakfast with a Side of Sexism

According to an article on Tech Impacts blog, almost half of all twitter users agree that

they use it to cure boredom, and 82% of millennial users will share a tweet when they think it is

funny (Creedon, 2017). Naturally, this information leads social media managers across the

country, especially those targeting millennials, to show their humorous side on twitter. After all,

more retweets mean more impact, and more impact means increased business traffic. IHOP tried

to be humorous on twitter, and instead failed, leading the company to a bad reputation through a

misogynistic tweet. Although they did apologize, IHOP could have handled the tweet scandal

better; They could have taken notes from a company like Dennys that has a very successful

social media campaign, and definitely writes for the 82% of millennials that share funny tweets.

Restaurants across the Western world took this data in their stride, and began to use their

social media to create an online identity rather than merely promote new products or menu items.

Pancake house IHOP surfaced their new, young, innovative voice when they tweeted pancakes

on fleek in 2014 (Bortz, 2016). The company continued to use language of this nature to appeal

to a younger audience on their social media platforms (Miller, 2015). Many of the companys

tweets during the following year hinted at unconventional morals, erring on the side of

inappropriate. However, in October 2015, the company posted an aberrational tweet, reading

flat but has a GREAT personality (IHOP, 2015). At the time, the company had 242,000 twitter

followers, and fans were quick to call out the misogyny and inappropriateness of the tweet

(Matias, 2016). Later that day the company decided to remove the controversial tweet, and

issued an apology, saying, Earlier today we tweeted something dumb and immature that does

not reflect what IHOP stands for. Were sorry (IHOP, 2015). Whilst the brand should be

commended for apologizing quickly for something that was the breaking point in a chain of

tasteless tweets, it calls into question whether or not the company had a social media strategy in


There are many other ways that the company could, and should, have handled this

situation; not posting the tweet to begin with would have been ideal. In fact,

listed IHOP in The 5 Worst Marketing Fails of 2015 and New York Daily News also listed

IHOPs Twitter campaign as one of the biggest brand fails of 2015 (Bortz, 2016). Part of what

has been criticized about the IHOP platform as a whole is that their posts have no real context, so

they can appear to be strange or off-putting to anyone browsing the companys platform. (Miller,

2015). Since calling their tweets dumb and immature IHOP seems to have dialed back on their

risky tweets, and instead they just commonly use trending slang terms in their tweets. However,

they still have a lot to learn in terms of creating an engaging platform with which their fans and

followers can interact (Miller, 2015).

Examples of similar companies making a comparable blunder on Twitter are few and far

between, but another restaurant in the industry with a far more successful social media strategy is

that of Dennys. Although they also take an entertaining approach to their content, there is a

context behind all of it, and it is presented in a way so that it is easily interpreted and has no risk

of being offensive (Miller, 2015). IHOP takes a general approach of trying to sound like a

millennial on all social media, rather than focusing on what a millennial may want to see or

read. Dennys social media channels, however, take on the voice of a friendly customer at

Dennys who wants to chat and talk about daily events as they happen (Taylor, 2015). If one

were to picture each restaurants social media channel as the person that would sit in the booth

next to you, IHOP would be the misogynistic man that talks too loudly, and Dennys would be

the friends that came to laugh together and catch up. At the end of the day, a companys social

media is about integrated marketing and spreading likeability, and the most important aspect of

a brands social-media presence is that it brings people to the restaurant (Taylor, 2015). With

that in mind, Dennys amusing but sensitive approach to their tweets is a much more effective

social media platform than one that alienates their followers through objectionable statements.

While IHOP received heavy negative input from their followers, resulting in their

decision to remove and apologize for the tweet, the tweet did gain traction from some followers

in the few hours that it was online. In some screen grabs found on Google Images, the tweet

gained as many as 575 retweets and 700 favorites before it was removed. Therefore, it could be

argued that the company was simply making a joke, and that the audience was not receptive to

the nature of their humor. While this may be the case, it is still the responsibility of the social

media manager for any brand to incorporate the companys image into every single post, even

those of a more light-hearted nature. Across the board, regardless of those who embrace a sense

of humor of this nature, this tweet was deemed a social fail (Bortz, 2016).

Overall, when 82% of an organizations target demographic is focused on what is funny,

the organization needs to focus on this and increase their comedic content. IHOP attempted to do

this, and ended up failing, thus creating a conflict between their target audience and themselves.

While the organization did apologize for their mistake, it seems that their social media strategy

and platform is still underdeveloped as they still struggle with engaging with millennials.

Dennys, however, is a similar brand with a much more successful social media campaign that

succeeds in reaching the millennials that seek out entertaining content.



Bortz, H. (2016, February 11). IHOPs Epic Fail. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from

Creedon, J. (2017, March 30). Nonprofits: Connect With Millennials on Twitter. Retrieved April

20, 2017, from

Matias, C. (2016, January 15). The Top 10 Most Embarrassing Social Media Fails From 2015.

Retrieved April 20, 2017, from


Miller, D. (2015, Novermber 18). Social Media Lessons from Dennys to IHOP | SEJ. Retrieved

April 20, 2017, from


Taylor, K. (2015, March 27). Why Dennys Sounds Like a Chill Teenager on Social Media.

Retrieved April 20, 2017, from

The tweets referenced in this article have since been deleted or taken down, so there is no URL

to provide.