At two local IHOPs, Ramadan halal specials were a big hit

Mohammad Ashraf, owner of the IHOP franchise in Fullerton, watched in awe as what happened in Ramadan This year.

Cars are often double-parked in front of the chain before dawn, when members of the Muslim community gather, hoping to get their own halal chicken or turkey bacon omelette. . suhoor meal before fasting for the day.

A frantic general manager takes orders outside with pen and paper in an attempt to make sure everyone can be served before sunrise. Some, unable to find an empty table, will eat all the Styrofoam boxes while sitting on the curb. This year’s uproar has made one thing clear to Ashraf, a Muslim: his annual Ramadan-only special menu will have to be maintained year-round.

“People are overwhelmed by the fact that they can go to an IHOP restaurant and eat halal food,” he said. “That’s 90% of the comments they make.”

Non-Halal Pork and other animals, such as chicken, beef and lamb, must be slaughtered according to certified halal standards, such as humane throat slits. . Ashraf has never been interested in bacon, but it has been on his mind since 2008. That’s when the IHOP franchisee decided it was time to serve the needs of his family and community. him, and sells halal-certified turkey bacon at his first restaurant during the Muslim holy month, which ends this year on May 1. He said it took months for the office to arrive. The company IHOP approved its sale at the Fullerton outpost, along with the halal sausage option. (IHOP central offices did not respond to a request for comment on this story.)

A menu of Muslim specials, or foods permitted under Islamic law, was introduced during Ramadan in 2009, and he also decided to open it earlier for those who wanted to dine before the arrival of the family. sunrise. At first, business was slow: one or two tables were booked every morning before dawn, but by the following month of Ramadan, more guests had arrived.

Ashraf’s IHOP halal menu became more popular before the pandemic, when he and his team started offering a suhoor buffet to help guests eat before sunrise. This year, in addition to serving buffets, they added a tent for outdoor seating and decided to open the restaurant for 24 hours during the last two weekends of Ramadan.

By 2022, word of mouth had made the menu even more popular, so much so that he expanded some to his Tujunga location, which will now also sell them year-round. In Tujunga, they have guests driving from Modesto. In Fullerton, diners said they had traveled from Victorville and Palm Springs.

The Halal menu at IHOP includes chicken and waffles, classic burgers, Florentine tilapia and pancake combos.

Some of the items on the halal menu at IHOP include (clockwise from bottom): chicken and waffles, classic burgers, Florentine tilapia and a pancake combo with halal turkey bacon.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

When the restaurant owner turned realtor bought the Fullerton IHOP in 2006, he brought his own meats from Diamond Bar’s Aljibani Halal Meats and taught his chefs how to prepare them just for the family. him – and how to avoid cross-contamination with restaurant food. pork products; both locations now maintain separate refrigerators, shelves, fryers, and grills for halal meat and non-pork items.

In the end, his personal money went to his children when they visited, and then his friends.

“When they are young, they will go to restaurants with friends, but their choices are very limited,” says Ashraf. “’Why can they eat meat and I can’t?’ There are a few halal [chain] restaurants of the day, but other than that, our choices would be Pakistan, Bangladesh or Iran. When they come to IHOP, they will eat pancakes, waffles, vegetarian food. ”

He realized that there was more than immediate demand for the supply of halal meats – there was still an untapped market.

According to the Census Policy Advocacy Network, about 1 million Muslims live in California; The Muslim Association of Orange County is one of the largest Muslim community centers in the country.

Ashraf’s growth was largely driven by direct marketing visits to local mosques, first in Orange County, now in Los Angeles, primarily conducted by the company’s general manager. Mr.: Mariana Macias. Raised Catholic, she started working with Ashraf in 2006, and says she didn’t know about Islamic practices or Muslim requirements, but learned more when she dropped the flyer. Fullerton IHOP halal meats in mosques and at Muslim student programs.

Now, says Macias, she feels part of the community.

“At first, the hardest part to do, as a non-Muslim, was to go to a mosque – I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “You have to take your shoes off, you have to be covered in abaya, some places are more strict; Men and women go through a separate door. All of that is new to me, but the whole Muslim community is very welcoming, even if you are not a Muslim.”

Aerial shots of dishes from the halal menu, including pancakes with turkey bacon, grilled chicken sandwiches and burgers.

Some of Ashraf’s Halal Fullerton fare may soon make its way to the Tujunga site, including halal turkey bacon and beef burgers.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Although Macias isn’t Muslim, she regularly orders the halal menu, saying it tastes better – especially the chicken, which she loves in the form of burgers and buffalo tendons.

Also found at Dave’s Hot Chicken

Ashraf staff aren’t the only ones who enjoy the taste of halal meat. Dave’s Hot Chicken has been selling halal chicken portions since it launched as a pop-up store in a parking lot in East Hollywood in 2017. According to co-founder Arman Oganesyan, the practice of religion doesn’t motivate decided – for four founders Dave, halal bidding is simply a better product.

“We realized that any brand of halal is much better: The chicken comes out of the box much softer, much more juicy,” says Oganesyan. “We had a brine process, and we had to do a lot less in our brine process because chicken is so easy to make.”

Dave’s now operates more than 60 stores; by the end of the year, they will have about 100; some are franchises, some are company owned and all are halal certified. While halal chicken is a bit more expensive — about 10 cents per pound for Dave — the founders feel both the taste and the opportunity to reach a broader market, halal diners, is more than worth it.

“The feedback has always been really good, and it’s surprising to us that more and more people are not using halal,” Oganesyan said. “It’s not hard to get.”

Perhaps, he said, this is just the beginning. Ashraf said he hopes so too, but admits that getting there is a long way off.

“I am a Muslim, I understand the concept, and I pushed for it,” said Ashraf. “Others won’t have the patience for that; If you’re not passionate about it, how long are you going to fight for it? I have been trying since 2008.”

Ashraf hopes to add new, certified items to both of its restaurants in an effort to offer as much convenience to customers who eat halal food as those who don’t. At two local IHOPs, Ramadan halal specials were a big hit

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