IHOP Restaurants, famous for its pancakes and a full menu of other breakfast, lunch and dinner choices, officially opened its third restaurant in Puerto Rico on Monday at Los Colobos Shopping Center in Carolina, in partnership with local franchisee Encanto Sunrise Inc.
The opening is one of two expected to take place over the next 12 months, as the chain pitches to establish at least 10 more eateries in the next five years and create 1,500 direct and indirect jobs, Humberto Rovira, CEO of Encanto Restaurants, sister company of Encanto Sunrise, told this media outlet.
The $1.5 million, 4,000 square-foot restaurant will create 100 new jobs in the area, joining the 135 combined already in place at the Caguas and Barceloneta restaurants, he said.
“We are focused on a development plan that we believe will strengthen our market position with new restaurant locations and product diversification, and on our continued commitment to the local economy in Puerto Rico,” said Rovira.
Encanto is the third company to take a stab at running the IHOP franchise in Puerto Rico. The popular restaurant chain was first brought to the island in the mid 1990s. However, the franchisee was stripped of his rights due to poor service and restaurant appearance and the eatery — located on Ponce de León Avenue in Hato Rey — closed.
It re-entered the island’s competitive restaurant market in September 2009, with the opening of restaurants in Caguas and Barceloneta by Cousins International Food Corp., a local company that in November 2012 sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after racking up $2.8 million in debt for both operations.
According to court documents, in January 2013, Encanto Restaurants put in an offer of $1.8 million to buy the IHOP brand and operations from Cousins International Food Corp., which was accepted and signed the following April.
That was when the local company entered into a partnership with DineEquity Inc., the parent company of IHOP restaurants, to take over the brand in Puerto Rico.
“This time it’s different. You have Encanto, which has the experience, the know-how and the infrastructure in terms of operations and supply chain to successfully run the IHOP concept,” Rovira said. “We have the full trust of IHOP corporate and the synergies needed to make it work.”
Encanto Restaurants owns and operates multiple franchises in Puerto Rico — KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut — and employs about 4,000 people.
The Carolina restaurant took 90 days to open, during which Encanto has been training employees on customer service — an issue that was a thorn in IHOP’s side at the first two restaurants.From left: Ana Agrelot, vice president of marketing of Encanto Restaurants and Humberto Rovira, company CEO, discuss plans for the IHOP chain.
“We hope to be able to provide the experience that customers are used to when they go to an IHOP outside Puerto Rico,” he said. “We’re training all of the staff and conducted a full re-haul of the brand so that everything we offer is IHOP-approved.”
IHOP restaurants is an industry leader in the family dining segment, offering friendly service and a varied menu that includes more than 65 different “a la carte” options, such as appetizers, breakfasts, sandwiches, desserts, among others.
‘Third time’s the charm’
They say that the third time’s the charm, which is what IHOP is hoping will happen to the business in Puerto Rico, now under Encanto.
Sonia Harris, manager of IHOP’s international operations for the Americas for DineEquity Inc., said from the start, “we were thrilled because we knew they were already successful in Puerto Rico.”
“They’ve been managing the two restaurants we had in Puerto Rico for a year and we’re very happy with the accomplishments they’ve achieved so far. They have a high expectation for good service and food presentation. In the last year, they’ve proven their understanding of our brand,” she said.
Carolina Mayor José Aponte-Dalmau, who was on hand for the opening, said the town had chipped in $95,000 through the municipal labor development office for job creation.