IHOP is canceling its National Pancake Day promotion amid the coronavirus pandemic.
However, it’s not nixing the free pancake giveaway altogether. Instead, the Glendale, California-based chain announced Tuesday it is flipping the annual one-day event into a monthlong promotion with a couple of big changes.
To get the freebie this year, you need to be part of the MyHOP email club by March 31. New and existing members will get an “IOU” for a free short stack to be redeemed throughout the month of April. Sign up at www.ihop.com/en/myhop.
In past years, IHOP has given away free pancakes the day before Ash Wednesday, which is known as Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday. Last year’s event was Feb. 25, weeks before the pandemic led many states to lockdown and close restaurant dining rooms.
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Many restaurants and retailers have changed giveaways during the pandemic. This summer, 7-Eleven canceled its one-day Free Slurpee Day, held annually on July 11, and gave members of its loyalty program a month to redeem a coupon for a free Slurpee.
Black Friday also evolved from one day to several weeks as retailers looked to spread out the demand to reduce crowds.
IHOP President Jay Johns told USA TODAY that National Pancake Day has historically been one of the company’s busiest days of the year but since the health and safety of customers and staff is a top priority the celebration had to look different.
“Rather than cancel the day completely during a time when everyone could use a little hoppiness, we decided to flip the day to a month-long event to give everyone the flexibility to enjoy a free Short Stack whenever they would like, while also supporting our national charity partner Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals,” Johns said in a statement.
While in past years, the free pancakes were only available for dining in, this year, it’s also possible to get them with an online order on the IHOP website or mobile app. Participation and hours can vary by restaurant and the offer can’t be redeemed at IHOP restaurants in New York or Washington, D.C.
IHOP says consumers who are not MyHOP members can still get a free short stack in April with a minimum $10 purchase in restaurants or to-go by downloading a coupon at IHOP.com or the IHOP app. Prices vary by location, but a short stack costs an average of $6.45.
The free pancake fest will continue to be an annual fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Since 2006, IHOP has raised more than $30 million for its charity partners and is encouraging donations in restaurants or online. Learn how to donate at www.ihoppancakeday.com
Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko