February 4, 2009, - 2:32 pm

About Yesterday’s Free Denny’s Breakfast

By Debbie Schlussel
If you watched Sunday’s Super Bowl, you probably saw the Denny’s ad announcing it was serving free “Grand Slam” breakfasts, from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., yesterday.
With a bad economy and people always wanting free stuff, I wondered how large the turnout would be. Well, two million Americans–that’s 2/3 of a percent of the U.S. population–took Denny’s up on the offer and ate the 760-calorie (420 of it from fat) breakfast. With 158% of the recommended daily allowance of cholesterol, the Grand Slam includes two eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausages, and two pancakes. Since it’s not kosher, I wouldn’t eat this. But even if I could, that’s a whole lotta food just for breakfast.
One piggish Chicago Tribune reporter went to five different locations and ate FIVE Grand Slam breakfasts. Trying to be the next annoying Morgan Spurlock?


So, how much did this giveaway cost? Denny’s says it cost a total of $5 million, including the cost of the Super Bowl ad and other promotion. $5 million to feed 2 million people–that’s not bad.
While some Denny’s waitstaff got stiffed on tips, Denny’s actually made money or at least broke even on the giveaway. How did the restaurant chain do it? Here’s the catch: the drinks were not free.

The entire promotion – including food, labor and airing an ad on Sunday’s Super Bowl – cost Denny’s about $5 million. “We’re re-acquainting America with Denny’s,” says CEO Nelson Marchioli. “We’ve never been thanked this much – and folks are saying they’ll come back.”
The gambit earned Denny’s something that money alone can’t buy: positive public relations, and lots of it. By Denny’s estimates, it got $50 million in free news coverage, almost all of it positive. No injuries – or police issues – were reported at any locations, say Denny’s officials.
“I’m very grateful,” said Jennifer Haslam, who waited in line more than an hour in Newark, Del., with son Joshua, 2. “That was four eggs that I didn’t have to use of mine.” Her family lives on her husband’s take-home pay of $400 a week. “I’ll be honest. I just paid my rent. I had $10 to my name, and that went to gas.” . . .
Denny’s didn’t do this just out of the goodness of its corporate heart, however. The low-budget family dining chain did it because its franchise sales at sites open at least a year were down 7.2% last quarter at a time the hobbled economy ought to be giving it an opportunity to nudge the market-share needle. In tough times, many consumers are willing to trade down to restaurants such as Denny’s. If value chains such as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s can make hay in a bum economy, why not Denny’s? . . .
Consumer response to the promotion has been all Denny’s could hope for. Besides guests at restaurants on Tuesday, the Denny’s website has had 40 million hits since the Super Bowl ad aired.
“We’ve had a lot of fun today,” Marchioli says, exhaling a small sigh of relief.
Then, he quietly admits the one thing that almost every customer – and business executive – wonders about the promotion.
Did Denny’s really lose its burnt-orange shirt on it?
Marchioli is silent for a moment. He hedges. Then he concedes: If you factor in the profits from all of Tuesday’s drink orders – which are far more profitable than food orders – “we’ll do better than break even.”
And, yes, he just may do it again.

I think this was a smart investment. People who might never have tried Denny’s–due to it’s senior citizen and seedy image, might have changed their minds after tasting the free meal. And, you’ll note from the video below (and in other reports I saw), a sizeable portion of the customers for the promotion were Black. In the past, many Blacks shunned Denny’s, after it was sued over alleged discrimination against Black customers. Perhaps this is the way for Denny’s to re-attract them.
Fun video:

Did you go to Denny’s for the free breakfast, yesterday? If so, how was it?

12 Responses

When I was in Israel, the breakfast they served in my hotel was far bigger than Denny’s “Grand Slam”.
In fact, I’d never seen such a big breakfast.
It was a buffet of all sorts of foods.
Someone explained that the Israeli custom arose from the need on the kibbutzim to eat a huge breakfast before spending all day long working in the fields.
Many years ago, when I was a soldier stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and writing songs in my spare time, I was signed to a recording contract in Dallas.
It was late at night, and my wife, my manager, and I, had a long drive back to Fort Hood, so we stopped at a Denny’s Restaurant in Fort Worth, just off the I-35 freeway.
Everybody in the place was black, and they were openly hostile.
We sat at a table and waited to be served, but they just ignored us.
So, we left.
We had the same problem at one of the NCO clubs at Fort Hood.
There were two NCO clubs, the main one and the “mini-dome”.
The main NCO club was only for black people (I reckon), for they glared at my wife and I, and never waited on us.
At the other NCO club, I frankly never noticed if there were only white folks there.
It’s been so many years ago, and not being a drinking man, I never went to the club except for one time, when the cavalry unit I served in held a formal military ball.
I will admit that I avoid places where black people congregate, and no, I won’t apologize for my racial prejudice.
It’s a necessary survival instinct.
Thank you.
John Robert Mallernee
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400
NOTE: “My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan.”

writesong on February 4, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Debbie wouldn’t eat a non-kosher breakfast – or too much on her plate. That said, if people want a large breakfast or dinner, they should be able to buy it. Denny’s has good food at reasonable prices, not all of it breakfast fare.

NormanF on February 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm


Holly on February 4, 2009 at 5:37 pm

It was DENNY’s , what do you expect, smorgasborg at Grossiner’s !
Fat is not fattening, there is more energy in high fat low carb diet,it works great. I used this diet , when I was in the fitness industry and got great results for my clients. They were extremely happy and fit.

Johnny V on February 4, 2009 at 6:48 pm

Denny’s meals, by and large, are not known for their health-promoting properties. The problem with fat is that it adds to body weight most of the time just because there’s so much of it, i.e. lots of calories. To the extent that it consists of saturated and/or trans fat (probably lots, at Denny’s) it promotes artery-clogging and degenerative diseases. Assuming the counts are accurate; researches have found that restaurants frequently, for whatever reason, understate calorie counts. Of course fat is fattening; there are 9 calories per gram, as opposed to carbs and proteins that are 4 calories per gram. So if you eat enough to fill you up & lots of it is fat, you’re consuming more calories. Anecdotal evidences does not contradict this.
That being said, this is a free country, and Denny’s gets credit for good marketing. The people eating there would undoubtedly eat some other unhealthy foods if they ate somewhere else. But on the one issue I agree with our President about, they’d be better off going to Whole Foods & eating an arugula salad.

c f on February 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Shortly after the hub ub about the blacks being given a hard time in the Denny’s I went there for lunch with my girlfriend. It was in Westland Michigan but the staff was primarily black. I couldn’t help notice the nasty condition of the glasses and utensils along with the ATTITUDE on the waitress. After we talked about it we left as the cooks and waitress didn’t bat an eye at our departure, although I did make a loud comment about the restaraunt being a “F$%#ing dump, etc.” My girlfirend wasn’t happy about THAT. Haven’t been back since. We also didn’t call Al Sharpton about our treatment because he wouldn’t have cared less. When I was a c/o in California I went for a midnight breakfast(out of uniform) after work, and had the pleasure of being bonehawked by the local police at a table across the restaurant.

samurai on February 4, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I hope the wait staff got tipped well. In my college days, working in a restaurant, the waitresses earned their money on these days. I hate stingy tippers. I work with people or clients who who only put a $1 for a $40 meal. I usually cover for them or just tell the waitress, “this my tip”. Unless they just plain give crappy service, then I won’t give them a dime. I know what bad service is or just an overworked waitress or under-staffed restaurant.

californiascreaming on February 4, 2009 at 10:05 pm

True story here–I skipped my normal Tuesday at Denny’s breakfast date with the boys to avoid the hubbub. Some of the guys still went and had to stand in line. To me, that’s a lot of work to save $5. Not interested.
Oh, they did report that plenty of freeloaders did indeed stiff the waitstaff leaving NO TIP! What jackasses!
I never knew the stats on the grand slam. I usually work out in the morning and afterward I get a down sized grand slam (cheaper and still plenty to eat). If I want to cut a couple pounds, it sounds like I have to pound down something with less calories. Hmmmmm, how about chicken fried steak and eggs with bicuits and country gravy??

BB on February 4, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Didn’t participate, too busy and didn’t want all the calories or to endure crowds. Too often, with notable exceptions above and many others, too many who go for the freebees are rude and obnoxious. No class and no gratefulness. We’ve eaten at our local Denny’s and nearby towns for many years and never had a bad experience or bad food/service. Good food and not just breakfasts.

Floyd R. Turbo on February 5, 2009 at 12:38 am

Nope,didn’t go but friends told me about it (didn’t watch the game).
Told them the places would be mobbed by all the low-class types & they’d wait for hours in the cold.
That’s exactly what happened.

billybob on February 5, 2009 at 8:50 am

Since when does Denny’s have a “senior citizen and seedy image?” I’ve loved Denny’s since my college days when we’d eat Grand Slam breakfasts at 3:00 am after a night on the town.

LoveAManInAUniform on February 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I wonder how many hungry and homeless they fed. If they fed a lot and didn’t turn any/too many away, and are not exploiting what they did, that speaks well of them.

Ben-Yehudah on February 8, 2009 at 7:53 am

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