The Unexpected Connection Between Perkins And Holiday Inn

The Perkins restaurant chain has undergone a lot of ownership changes and different iterations over the years since its launch in 1958 as "Perkins Pancake House." The restaurant's extensive menu, which now features a veritable novella of options ranging all over the map, exclusively served breakfast until the 1960s, when sandwiches were added (via Funding Universe). Pancakes and waffles were its initial specialty, offered in a variety of flavors from standard buttermilk to the less traditional potato and curried tuna.

In 1967, a new owner named Wyman Nelson took the reins and expanded it to a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation that he dubbed Perkins "Cake & Stake." Nelson added dinner items to the growing menu, and by 1978, he would acquire the trademark and dining concept rights to Perkins.

Shortly thereafter, another player emerged on the scene to invest in the Perkins brand. If you want to impress your friends with an obscure tidbit of restaurant trivia at your next cocktail party, you can tell them about how Holiday Corp., the parent company of Holiday Inns, Inc. briefly acquired Perkins "Cake & Stake" in 1979.

Holiday Inn's ownership of Perkins didn't last long

Funding Universe explains that Holiday Inn's purchase of Perkins was part of a diversification plan to expand its portfolio into restaurants and casinos. Business was booming for Perkins at the time, which by 1981 had grown to encompass 258 restaurants in 29 states. Although the connection between Holiday Inn and Perkins might come as a surprise, there were other hotel-restaurant links at the time, including Howard Johnson, which operated more than 1,000 restaurants nationwide at peak popularity. "HoJo's" restaurants are now obsolete, but the hotel franchise endured.  

Holiday Inn's brief foray into Perkins' ownership ended in the mid-1980s, but it did impact one major change: moving its headquarters to Memphis, Tennessee. Perkins managed to keep its head above water during the short Holiday Inn tenure, but earnings declined.

Donald N. Smith, a member of Holiday Corp.'s board of directors, bought Perkins next. The restaurateur's impressive credentials included executive positions with fast food giants McDonald's, Burger King, and Pizza Hut, which perhaps better equipped him to provide the faltering chain a much-needed boost. He purchased Perkins in 1985 and took it private, giving it a remodeling makeover to transform the look and updating the menu. In 1986, Smith added the in-store bakery. His changes worked, and Smith had tripled Perkins' profits by the end of the 1980s.