Although located away from the core of Champaign-Urbana, word still manages to get out about the great breakfast at The Original Pancake House. How does the restaurant handle COVID precautions when the interior is normally packed tight every morning in a typical year? Here, I interview Eric Faulkner, and he answers some pandemic questions as well as the hottest items at The Original Pancake House in Champaign.


Smile Politely: Hello! Can you tell us your name and role at The Original Pancake House?

Eric Faulkner: My name is Eric Faulkner, and I am the owner of The Original Pancake House in Champaign, Illinois which is a breakfast restaurant established in 1976. I took ownership in 2000.

SP: For our readers who are not familiar, can you tell us a little about The Original Pancake House is Champaign?

Faulkner: The franchise has been based out of Portland, Oregon since 1953 with over 130 restaurants worldwide.

SP: What's a typical workday like at The Original Pancake House?

Faulkner: A typical workday consists of a focus on excellent customer service and preparing delicious food.

 A Dutch Baby filled with bananas, strawberries, and powdered sugar contained in a bowl-shaped piece of cooked dough. Photo courtesy of Original Pancake House in ChampaignPhoto from Original Pancake House in Champaign's Facebook page.

SP: What menu items are most popular at the Champaign location?

Faulkner: The apple pancake and Dutch baby are perhaps our most famous menu items; however, we recently added the One by One by One, which is one egg cooked any style, a piece of meat, and one pancake or piece of toast — and that has become an instant hit. Coffee, of course, is popular, and chocolate chip pancakes are our most ordered pancake dish.

SP: Does The Original Pancake House offer seasonal dishes or have food combinations that come highly recommended?

Faulkner: Our only seasonal item is our pumpkin pancakes which are available from the 1st of October to the 31st of December every year.

SP: For vegetarians or those who can't have gluten, what dishes do you recommend?

Faulkner: The vegetarian scramble or omelette and the garden benedict are our best vegetarian options. Also, we have the best gluten-friendly pancakes around.

SP: The Original Pancake House has a large machine that makes fresh orange juice. Where do the oranges come from? 

Faulkner: The oranges ship from California and Florida.

SP: What items do best for carryout?

Faulkner: We do our best to ensure that all food to stays hot, but I would say biscuits and gravy and the apple pancake are the best takeout options.

A thick, dense-looking pancake stuffed with apples and topped with a caramelized sauce. Photo courtesy of Original Pancake House in Champaign.Apple Pancake. Photo from Original Pancake House in Champaign's Facebook page.

SP: What desserts are hot items at The Original Pancake House?

Faulkner: The apple pancake and Dutch baby, but strawberry and chocolate chip pancakes are also popular among our sweet-toothed customers.

SP: I saw your transparency on Facebook regarding your COVID closure. Not all businesses are so open about this. Can you talk more about this?

Faulkner: We have such a loyal and supportive customer base that transparency is the only option, and we have had an outpouring of support because of it.

SP: What process do you follow once it's known an employee is COVID positive?

Faulkner: We follow the procedures as indicated by the CDC and Health Department. We close for a day or two depending on the number of infected, deep clean of the restaurant in the days of closure, and quarantine exposed employees.

SP: What procedures is The Original Pancake House following to prevent COVID spread?

Faulkner: We require all employees and customers to wear masks inside the restaurant and enforce six-feet social distancing per Governor Pritzker’s orders.

SP: The big tents outside are clearly visible as people drive by the restaurant. How does The Original Pancake House make those work?

Faulkner: It has been a creative process and has taken ingenuity and diligence in addition to patient, hard-working employees to manage it. The ability to heat the tent has created a comfortable environment for our customers.

SP: What's been the biggest struggle for you during the pandemic?

Faulkner: I have always competed with myself as far as the success of the restaurant is concerned, and after twenty years of progress, seeing something out of my hands slow that momentum has been difficult to stomach.

SP: What is the best way for people in our area to order from The Original Pancake House?

Faulkner: You can order over the phone, but our website integrates with a POS service called Toast that enables customers to order from our online menu through that system.

SP: Can you talk about how the restaurant is doing right now with the recent restrictions in place closing indoor dining?

Faulkner: Although business has been down almost a million dollars, I feel blessed for how successful we have been and the support from our customers has been truly heartwarming.

Pancakes filled with chocolate chips and topped with bananas, whipped cream, and a chocolate drizzle. Photo courtesy of Original Pancake House in Champaign.Photo from Original Pancake House in Champaign's Facebook page.

SP: Is there anything you want to say to Smile Politely's readership?

Faulkner: I would say, place an order today! You will not be disappointed; we are committed as ever to being as loyal to our customers as they are to us.

The Original Pancake House
1909 E Springfield Ave
Champaign
M-F 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Sa 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Su 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Top image from Original Pancake House in Champaign's Facebook page.