Denny’s refreshes 24/7 heritage with help of diverse TikTok stars

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Denny’s is introducing a new brand platform called “Open for Anything” through menu collaborations with 24 TikTok content creators, according to a news release. The meals will be available on a limited-time offer basis through June 21 in restaurants, online and on the new Denny’s app for iOS and Android.
  • The chain paired its two dozen influencers based on shared interests in fields like food, fashion, gaming, music and comedy. The first six partners worked with Denny’s culinary group to develop original menu items that differ from menu “hacks” that typically combine existing offerings in distinctive ways.
  • Meals include the Get That Cookie Dough Pancakes created with Jenny Solares and The Enky boys, a father-son duo; the Jala-Bac Burger from Jonathan Chavez and Elise Osafo; and Clearly Very Fruity Pancakes by Elliott Norris and Matt Taylor. With the influencer-forward approach, Denny’s wants to spotlight diversity while tapping into its heritage as a 24/7 diner brand.

Dive Insight:

Denny’s is attempting to freshen up its image through an increasingly common tactic in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) category. Rather than focus solely on product innovation, the brand has enlisted the help of TikTok stars to devise and promote new limited-time offerings, layering in a larger influencer marketing component.

“Open for Anything” links Denny’s heritage of being open 24/7 to creating a welcoming atmosphere for consumers of diverse backgrounds. The idea is to cater to loyal customers while also bringing a new generation into the fold. The strategy previews how Denny’s marketing could look different as it builds out a platform that includes future menu collaborations with the remaining 18 TikTok influencers and a 30-second hero spot showcasing the variety of people who enjoy eating at the chain, from night owls and people on dates to families sharing a meal.

Along with the emphasis on social media talent, the QSR is making its Social Stars Influenced Menu available through a refurbished mobile app — another sign Denny’s is pushing to modernize its operations in recognition of shifting dining habits. Mobile and online ordering have seen wider adoption under the pandemic and started to affect substantial aspects of the restaurant business, including store design.

Denny’s follows other restaurants in turning to influencers to spruce up its menu and appeal to younger cohorts like Gen Z. McDonald’s has seen a sales boost from a Famous Orders platform that works with an array of celebrity partners to market their preferred meals. Others, like Chipotle and Burger King, have followed a similar route. Denny’s is aiming to make its pitch more distinctive by introducing entirely new dishes versus remixing ones that were already on the menu.

“We didn’t want to just work with this diverse group of social stars to ‘hack the menu,'” Denny’s Chief Brand Officer John Dillon said in a press statement. “Instead, we wanted to take it to a new level and tap into their creative personalities to create distinctly new menu items that are bursting with bold flavors.”

Though Denny’s 24/7 roots are front-and-center in “Open for Anything,” only about half of its U.S. restaurants are currently operating all day, executives said during a recent call discussing fourth-quarter results. The company has been impacted by staffing shortages that have become common in the restaurant industry during the pandemic, though its 24/7 stores have outperformed those open on a more limited basis.

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