Denny's (aka Denny's Diner as appeared on some of the locations' signage) is the largest full-service diner/family restaurant chain in the United States. It operates over 2,500 restaurants in the United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Curaçao, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand. Denny's is known for its 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year operations, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert around the clock, with exceptions. Many of their restaurants are located in proximity to freeway exits and in service areas of small towns and remote areas. Unlike many other restaurant chains, Denny's does not close on holidays or nights, except where required by law.


Denny's was founded under the name Danny's Donuts in 1953 by Harold Butler in Lakewood, California. Butler expanded to 20 restaurants by 1959, when he renamed the chain to Denny's to avoid confusion with another chain "Doughnut Dan's". The business continued to grow and by 1981, there were over 1,000 restaurants in all 50 U.S. states. In 1978, Denny's introduced the still-popular Grand Slam breakfast. In contrast to the USA, in New Zealand no hash brown nor toast is provided with the Grand Slam. In 1994, Denny's became the largest corporate sponsor of Save the Children, a national charity.

Denny's headquarters were located in Irvine, California, until 1991. At that time, the main office was moved to the Spartanburg, South Carolina, headquarters of the parent company Trans World Corporation that acquired Denny's in 1988. Eventually, Denny's operations dominated the parent company to such an extent that Trans World Corporation, after several name changes, became Denny's Corporation. It now trades on the NASDAQ under the symbol . Today, Denny's operates about 1,600 restaurants in 49 U.S. states (Wyoming is the only state without a Denny's), Canada and Mexico. There are also about 578 Denny's restaurants in Japan operated under a license by a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings. In New Zealand, there are 5 Denny's Restaurants in Auckland Region, one in Wellington and one in Christchurch Denny's New Zealand is run as a family restaurants concept and has been operating successfully for nearly 20 years. The New Zealand menu prices are double those of the States. Also in New Zealand, on holidays, families are charged a supplement to eat at Denny's. The restaurants are designed to create an ultra modern retrospec dining experience. There is a Denny's attached to the Holiday Beach Hotel in Otrabanda, Willemstad, Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles. Along with the regular Denny's Menu the restaurant also has a selection of local ("kriyoyo") dishes.

For much of its history, Denny's was notable for offering a free meal to anyone on their birthday. The offer only included a limited number of meal options from a special birthday menu. The promotional ritual ceased in 1993, though occasionally individual franchises will continue the tradition.


Competing restaurants include IHOP, Shoney's, Bob Evans, Waffle House, Cracker Barrel, Eat'n Park, Perkins, Bickford's, Huddle House, Golden Griddle, Steak n Shake, and Village Inn. Denny's also competes with restaurant chains at various geographic locations.


Racial discrimination lawsuits

During the early 1990s, Denny's was involved in a series of discrimination lawsuits involving several cases of servers denying or providing inferior service to racial minorities, especially African American customers.

These are some of the most notable incidents involving racial discrimination at Denny's:

  • In San Jose, California, several black teenagers were refused service unless they agreed to pay in advance (Smith, 1996).
  • Six Asian-American Syracuse University students visited a local Denny’s restaurant late at night. They waited over 30 minutes as white patrons were regularly served, seated, and offered more helpings. They began to complain to management and to their server regarding the situation. They were then forced to leave the establishment by two security guards (called by Denny’s management). Then, according to the students, a group of white men came out of Denny's and attacked the group, shouting racial epithets. Several of the students were beaten into unconsciousness.
  • Six Black Secret Service agents visited a Denny’s restaurant in Annapolis, Maryland. They were forced to wait an hour for service while their white companions were seated immediately upon entering (Guillermo, 1997).
  • A Black Denny’s customer was told that he and his friends had to pay up front at the counter upon ordering their meals. He questioned the waitress: "We asked the waitress about it and she 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." (Ferraro, 1995)

In 1994, Denny's settled a class action lawsuit filed by thousands of black customers who had been refused service, forced to wait longer, or pay more than white customers. The $54.4 million settlement was the largest and broadest under Federal public-accommodations laws established 30 years ago to end segregation in restaurants and public spaces.

After the $54.4 million settlement, Denny's created a racial sensitivity training program for all its employees. Denny's has also made efforts at improving its public relations image by featuring African Americans in many of its commercials, including one featuring Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford (both actors from the popular The Jeffersons television show). In 2001, Denny's was chosen by Fortune magazine as the "Best Company for Minorities.


In the controversial book Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, the author included her experience working in a restaurant chain known for its line of breakfast foods. To avoid lawsuits, due to the descriptions of less than desirable work conditions, she mentions the name of the restaurant under the pseudonym "Jerry's". Readers have speculated that Denny's is the restaurant chain she is describing.


Over the past decade there has been an increase in reported violence at Denny's locations across the United States. The company has been plagued with bad publicity of fatal shootings outside their restaurants. In 2006 over a period of one week, three shootings occurred at three different Denny's locations across Southern California.

  • In January, 2007 a man unleashed a barrage of bullets in a Kent, Washington location, wounding five people.
  • March 17, 2006 a gunman opened fire in an Anaheim, CA restaurant killing one man, and seriously wounding another.
  • March 16, 2006 a second fatal shooting occurred at a Southern California Denny's.
  • March 15, 2006 a man shot and killed two individuals dining at Denny's.
  • April, 1997 seven Syracuse University students were victims of a vicious beating outside a local Denny's restaurant. In response, student groups of the university protested Denny's.

Dateline NBC report

In October 2004, Dateline NBC aired a segment titled "Dirty Dining." This segment examined the 10 most popular family and casual dining chains in the United States, including Bob Evans, Red Lobster, Waffle House, Chili's, Ruby Tuesday, IHOP, Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Outback Steakhouse, and Denny's. As part of the segment, the producers examined the health inspection records for 100 restaurants over 15 months and totaled all of the critical violations, or violations that can result in adverse effects to the customers' health.

Denny's had the fewest violations of the 10 chains evaluated by Dateline and was the only one to average fewer than one violation per restaurant. Denny's and Waffle House were the only two chains studied that operate chain-wide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year (many IHOPs operate 24 hours as well) — an important factor to consider, as around-the-clock restaurants generally gather more health code violations. (Waffle House ranked the worst of the 10 chains examined.) Denny's, however, did not seem to be affected by the lack of downtime. Denny's attributes this relative success to its adherence to the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) — the science of food safety.

The "Denny's Diner" prototype

In May 1997 the first Denny's Classic Diner was opened in Fort Myers, FL. The diner concept was created by the principals of a Denny's Franchisee SWFRI, Inc. The principals were Ron, Marcia, Marc and Todd York. The diner is a modular building that resembled the 50's diners. Today there are approximately 38 modular diners in the United States. In addition there are several diners that resemble the modulars but are actually stick construction.


See also

External links

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