People get incredibly excited about National Pancake Day and the free pancakes
that IHOP gives away. Feb. 5 is National Pancake Day 2013, and guests can receive a free short stack of three Buttermilk pancakes at participating IHOP restaurants. In return, IHOP asks guests to consider leaving a donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or other designated local charities.
In 2012, IHOP served more than 4 million free pancakes (a stack that would have been 16 miles high), and guests donated more than $3 million to children’s charities. That’s a lot of free pancakes and a lot of money donated to charity. It’s also, if diners don’t tip on the free pancakes, a lot of lost wages for servers.
I called my local IHOP and asked how much they charge for a short stack. I was told a short stack of three pancakes costs $5.49. The price might vary from region to region, but I used that price for my rough calculations.
If you divide those 4 million pancakes by three, it comes out to about 1.3 million short stack orders being served for free in 2012. If you multiply the number of short stacks by $5.49, it comes out to about $7.3 million. If that amount was added to all the bills that the diners received and everyone tipped 15 percent, that’s about $1 million in tips.
Think about that. If people don’t tip on the free pancakes, servers will lose more than $1 million in wages. (Yes, tips are part of their wages. Let's not start that debate, please.)
As a former waitress, I dreaded it when a restaurant I worked at sent out percent-off coupons or free item offers. It always meant a reduction in tips because many people wouldn’t add the price of the free or reduced item into the tip. The bill might have been less because of the promotion, but the amount of work I did was the same.
Tomorrow, people will be lining up for IHOPs free pancake day. Servers will be working extra hard and serving more customers than usual. They shouldn’t lose out on tips because their employer is giving away pancakes for free, even if it is to help out children’s charities.
If you’re going to take advantage of the free pancakes tomorrow, do the math before you tip. For tip calculating purposes, add $5.50 per free short stack of pancakes on top of the bill, and tip on that amount, not what is actually on the bill.