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Denny's vs. IHOP: 5 Major Differences

America's two preeminent breakfast chains share a lot in common, but each does things its own way.

Who said breakfast is just a morning meal? Certainly not Denny's or IHOP. The two restaurant chains serve breakfast all day, so customers can rest assured knowing their pancake and bacon cravings will be satisfied no matter the hour of their meal.

Aside from being known for their breakfast items, both chains serve lunch and dinner in casual, family-friendly environments. The two also have their own merch—or as Denny's calls it, "Diner Drip."

There's no denying the notable overlap between both restaurant concepts. However, they each have their own unique qualities and menu items that help differentiate them from each other. The next time you're deciding on a breakfast chain, you'll want to keep a few elements in mind before grabbing your table. From menu items to rewards programs, here are five differences between Denny's and IHOP.

Store footprint

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Both IHOP and Denny's have a strong presence in the breakfast chain world, with IHOP having the larger footprint between the two. As of June 2023, there are some 1,790 IHOP locations all over the globe. This includes restaurants across all 50 states, two U.S. territories, and 13 additional countries.

Meanwhile, Denny's is slightly smaller and has 1,573 locations as of December 2023. Within its restaurant portfolio, the chain has locations across all 50 states and two U.S. territories and operates in 12 additional countries.

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Rewards programs

fast food and restaurant chain apps on phone
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If you find yourself becoming a regular at either of these breakfast spots, you might want to consider becoming a loyalty member. Last summer, Denny's gamified its rewards program, so customers can unlock perks after completing various challenges. Denny's rolls out these challenges every month, and the rewards become available the following month or at the expiration of the challenge window, according to the chain's website.

Meanwhile, IHOP Rewards is centered around its "International Bank of Pancakes." Through this program, customers earn one PanCoin for every $5 spent at the breakfast chain. These PanCoins can be redeemed for various menu items and perks, with three PanCoins earning customers a short stack of three pancakes.

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Menu items

denny's boneless chicken wings

Yes, both Denny's and IHOP offer a lot of the same diner-style menu items. Pancakes, omelets, burgers, sandwiches, you get the gist. However, there are some offerings one chain offers that the other restaurant lacks.

Take IHOP, for example. The breakfast hotspot serves a variety of sweet and savory crepes, ranging from cinnamon bun to chicken pesto. Denny's, on the other hand, only offers a sweet option. IHOP also has a bigger selection of biscuit options. A few chain-specific items you can find at Denny's include the Brisk-It-All Melt, Bourbon Chicken Skillet, and Mac 'N Brisket Skillet. As always, menu item availability can vary by location.

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ihop cupcake pancakes
IHOP / Facebook

If you look closely at both chains' pancake options, you'll find some differences that go beyond the flavor—a quality repeatedly assessed in various taste tests. At IHOP, you can choose from varieties like Cupcake, New York Cheesecake, and multiple protein pancake options. Denny's doesn't currently offer these pancake choices. However, it does serve Salted Caramel Banana Pancakes in addition to Hershey's Chocolate Pancake Puppies—two menu items you won't find on IHOP's menu right now.

Additionally, IHOP recently launched its new "Pancake of the Month" program. On the first of every month, the chain will release a new, limited-time pancake flavor, available for the calendar month as a full stack, side, or as part of a pancake combo. To encourage customers to try the new pancakes, IHOP has added a "loyalty challenge" to its program. Those who order the Pancake of the Month at least twice in one month will earn 10 PanCoins for that month. Customers who order the new pancake at least once a month every month for the entire year will score 100 bonus PanCoins. 

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    money tip

    Chain restaurant pricing can vary by location, but you may notice one spot to be friendlier on your wallet. When comparing a few menu items at a New York-based Denny's and IHOP, Denny's came out on top as the less expensive option.

    Specifically, Denny's Super Slam, which includes two buttermilk pancakes, two bacon strips, two eggs, and hash browns costs $10.99. Meanwhile, the IHOP Smokehouse Combo, which includes the same breakfast items minus the strips of bacon, costs $17.75. The Philly Cheesesteak Omelette at Denny's is $15.99, while the similar Big Steak Omelet at IHOP is  $18.99. The trend continues with kids' menu items, too. For example, the Jr. Cheeseburger at Denny's costs $5.19, while the IHOP variety is $9.29.

    With that being said, pricing could be even lower depending on the restaurant chain's available deals. For instance, IHOP is currently holding IHOPPY Hour, which kicks off at 3 p.m. at participating restaurants. With this deal, customers can score various menu items—like Chicken & Pancakes or the Classic Steakburger—starting at $6.

    Brianna Ruback
    Brianna is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna