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~ Worldwide Franchise ~

Oh the memories growing up with “Denny’s”. It was a common hangout during my high school and college years. Late night, sitting for hours, catching up with friends. Even after college, it was a great location for after dancing/clubbing meet ups and place to sober up before heading home. This iconic table service diner-style restaurant chain is certainly an image of the American heartland and definition of American type food. It is called “Denny’s” or “Denny’s Diner” and consists of over 1,600 restaurants across the United States, including Guam, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Curacao, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela, Honduras, Japan, New Zealand, Qatar, the Phillipines, and the United Arab Emirates. It is famous for being open 24 hours, 7 days a week, year round except where required by law to be closed. They are open on holidays and late nights. They place themselves close to interstates, freeways, bars, and service areas.

A humble history spurring from a donut shop, Denny’s was birthed by Harold Butler and Richard Jezak as “Danny’s Donuts” in Lakewood California in 1953. In 1956, Jezak left the business leaving it to Butler who changed the image and concept from a donut shop to a coffee shop renamed “Danny’s coffee shops” operating 24 hours a day. By 1959 they changed their name to “Denny’s Coffee Shops” as another chain went by the name of “Coffee Dan’s” in Los Angeles. By 1961 they simplified their name to “Denny’s”. They became a franchise in 1963 and most of the locations today are franchise owned. In 1977 they introduced their very popular Grand Slam breakfast. By 1981 there were over 1,000 restaurants throughout the United States. They also absorbed many of the Sambo restaurants. By 1994 they became the largest corporate sponsor of “Save the Children” charity. Operating non-stop, 24 hours, many locations were built without locks and some are said to have lost their keys. With headquarters in La Mirada, California until 1989, they relocated to Irvine, California, then Spartanburg, South Carolina becoming acquired by Trans World Corporation in 1987.

They became notorious for the “free birthday meals” to anyone on their birthdates, but this only survived from 1990-1993 but was cut off due to over-use and abuse. They offer a free Birthday Build-Your-Own-Slam on a customer’s proven and tracked birth date. By 1994 they changed their theme, outlook, and decoration with a lighter color scheme. They were reviewed by the October 2004 Dateline NBC news story called “Dirty Dining” criticizing Denny’s cleanliness, safety, and operations pulling the health inspection records of over 100 of its establishments for a 15 month span totaling all of the critical violations that could lead to adverse effects of a customer’s health compared to Applebee’s, Bob Evans, Chili’s, IHOP, Outback, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday, TGI Friday’s, and Waffle House. They had the fewest violations averaging less than one violation per restaurant which they proudly boast is due to their successful model of their “principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points.”

However in 1934, they were damaged by their involvement in a series of discrimination lawsuits over food servers denying or providing inferior service to racial minorities from African Americans to Native Americans. That year, six black U.S. Secret Service agents visited a Denny’s in Annapolis, Maryland and were forced to wait an hour for service while their white companions were seated immediately. The 1994 class action lawsuit filed by black customers who were refused service, forced to wait longer, or pay more than white customers led to a $54.4 million settlement. In 1995 a African American customer in a Sacramento California location was told that he and his friends had to pay up front at the counter before ordering their meals, because, according to the waittress, said some black guys had been in earlier who made a scene and walked out without paying their bill, so the manager now wanted all blacks to pay up front. In 1997, six Asian American students from Syracuse University were discriminated upon late at night at a Denny’s having to wait more than a 1/2 hour as white patrons were served before them. After they complained to management, they were forced to leave by security, then afterwards a group of white men came out of Denny’s and attacked them, some beaten unconscious. Denny’s addressed this with racial sensitivity training programs for their employees and worked hard to improve public relations featuring African-Americans in their commercials. They made headway and was awarded in 2001 by Fortune Magazine to be the “Best Company for Minorities”. By 2006/2007 they topped Black Enterprise’s “Best 40 Companies for Diversity.” However in 2017, a Vancouver Denny’s made an Indigenous woman pay for her meal before it was served. The restaurant called the police on her after she left claiming she had a sharp-metal object in her pocket.

June of 2017, eight Denny’s in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, Colorado were immediately shut down because the franchise owner failed to pay close to $200,000 in back taxes as well as $30,000 in sales tax from the previous year. Many of these employees also filed that their accounts were not paid, received bounced checks and paychecks not arriving on time. The IRS came in and closed the locations, seizing property, and no advance notice given to its employees for the closures, leaving many without work or preparation for the losses. The franchise owner fled the state of Colorado.

Rated: 4 of 5 stars. ~ Review by Leaf McGowan/Thomas Baurley, Technogypsie Productions ~

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