Denny's is looking for growth by jumping into delivery after testing showed that, perhaps no surprise, people like eating pancakes and sipping milkshakes in the comfort of their own homes.
"Denny's on Demand," announced Tuesday, includes the chain's first broad online ordering capabilities, the ability to place orders through Facebook and Twitter chatbots, and updated to-go packaging the chain says is both sustainable and microwaveable.
"This provides another business layer for us to expand the Denny's universe," said Senior VP-Chief Marketing Officer John Dillon, who noted that demand for delivery has been growing for a few years. "Clearly consumers overall are wanting, expecting, and needing more convenient options across the restaurant industry and beyond."
The push comes as visits to full-service restaurants, including to Denny's longstanding locations, have declined. Meanwhile, one-fourth of Americans claim to have ordered a meal via delivery in the last three months, according to findings released by The NPD Group in late April, which also noted that websites, apps, and texts were the fastest growing ordering methods. Other restaurants are also diving into delivery. Earlier this month McDonald's expanded its delivery partnership with UberEATS, allowing for delivery from more than 1,000 of the fast-feeder's U.S. restaurants.
Dillon declined to say how much business Denny's expects to get from online ordering and delivery. Takeout already accounted for about 6% of Denny's business, and had been gradually increasing over time even without dedicated support, he said.
Denny's already tested delivery in some markets, which Dillon declined to name.
"People truly do want pancakes any time of day or night, same with Grand Slam," Dillon said, adding there were also lots of burger orders, as well as plenty of milkshakes delivered with pancakes.
Some franchisees may have already offered online ordering or delivery, but Tuesday's launch marks Denny's first such effort across the chain. For now, only about half of Denny's locations are able to accept delivery orders, which are handled through third-party providers in partnership with digital ordering company Olo's Dispatch delivery network. Fees vary depending on location and time of day.
Denny's is promoting "Denny's on Demand" with 15-second TV spots and other marketing from EP+Co, the agency formerly known as Erwin Penland. The broadcast, digital and social push centers around a glowing yellow booth meant to signify the seating at Denny's, and the idea of bringing that booth anywhere, including at home, on a hike, on a motorcycle, or even to the top of a skyscraper.
"We're a little bit hyperbolic within the creative on purpose to signify literally Denny's can now go wherever you are," Dillon said.
The effort also includes offering a 60-day free trial of Hulu for anyone who signs up for an account and places a Denny's on Demand order, an upcoming integration with Jimmy Kimmel, and Snapchat filters coming in July.
At the same time, Denny's wants and needs people to keep coming into its restaurants. More than half of its U.S. locations have been remodeled in recent years, with more updated locations planned and a goal of having about 75% of locations updated by the end of 2018.
Despite those remodels and some food updates, including fluffier buttermilk pancakes, Denny's sales at longstanding U.S. restaurants fell 1.1% in the first quarter after two quarters of modest increases. The company expects U.S. systemwide same-store sales to be flat to up 2% this year.
Along with EP+Co, Denny's is working with Conill, its Hispanic agency of record, and media agency Blue 449.