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Maple Bacon Sundae, Anyone? Denny's Serves Up 'Baconalia' Menu

Chain Breaks Campaign Touting First Dedicated Bacon Menu

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Denny's is bringing on the bacon.

The all-American diner is about to begin advertising a new limited-time menu of seven bacon-centric items for breakfast, lunch and dinner dubbed "Baconalia." While the bacon trend has been several years in the making, the $548 million chain is capitalizing on it now because "we truly believe the bacon trend is here to stay" said John Dillon, VP-marketing and product development at Denny's. "We're not on the cutting edge, but, we're really bringing it mainstream by being the first chain to offer it on a fully dedicated menu. No chain has embraced it like we have."

Among the items included in Baconalia are Bacon Meatloaf, Ultimate Bacon Breakfast Triple Bacon Sampler -- with, you guessed it, three kinds of bacon -- as well as items that employ more unconventional uses for bacon, such as Bacon Flapjacks and the Maple Bacon Sundae, an ice-cream sundae with maple-flavored syrup and sprinkling of bacon. Mr. Dillon said that so far, the sundae has generated the most buzz and excitement.

Denny's today launched the marketing push, which includes ads on network and cable TV. Viewers can expect to see the ads on NBC's "The Apprentice," four Major League Baseball opening day games, and "Friends" and "Seinfeld" reruns on TBS, among other shows as well as on Hispanic TV. Also planned are regional print ads, digital marketing, social media and radio DJ and blogger endorsements. There's also a page on the company's website, which is being revamped and will break with a redesign next week, devoted to the bacon celebration.

Denny's: Baconalia

Interpublic Group of Cos.' Gotham handles creative, digital marketing and social media, among other duties; Publicis Groupe's Optimedia handles media services; and independent Sandbox Team Plus handles Hispanic marketing.

As part of the social media effort, Denny's is offering a weeklong sweepstakes through its Facebook page, beginning today and ending 9 a.m. April 4. The winner will receive flights, accommodation and full access to Baconfest -- a festival dedicated to bacon appreciation presented by Illinois Pork Producers Association -- in Chicago on April 9. Five runners-up will also receive $100 gift cards to Denny's.

Whether any of the limited-time bacon offerings graduate to the permanent menu remains to be seen. "We're open to what guests have to say. It will be an interesting road to cross," said Mr. Dillon, of the potential for the bacon offerings to move to the core menu.

Bacon has been garnering an increase in consumer demand. It's the most preferred type of pork for entree salads, and consumers say that most sandwiches are more appealing with bacon, signaling opportunities for restaurants to offer the pork product as an add-on, according to Technomic's Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report.

Restaurants have indeed picked up on that consumer demand. In 2010, restaurants increased the number of menu items with bacon by just more than 8%, according to Technomic's Top 500 Leading Chain Restaurant Report and MenuMonitor.

Of course the bacon trend runs counter to another trend of consumers paying more attention to healthful food. Mr. Dillon said that while the company "loves to offer indulgences," Denny's also offers turkey bacon and egg whites as part of the chain's "Better For You" menu initiative, which aims to offer items in line with the new USDA 2010 Dietary guidelines.

Denny's, which has about 1,500 restaurants in the U.S., spiked its U.S. measured media spending considerably in 2010, according to Kantar, to $71.6 million, up 22% from 2009.

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