Talk about the conversion process and why that’s been effective? How did you manage to revamp a store in three months? Renovating four restaurants in one year is no small feat. What are some ways you were able to accomplish this? And how important was it to the store’s future performance?
Good planning and having knowledgeable local partners are extremely vital to having an efficient construction process, no matter what the estimated timeframe for completion is. As a restaurant operator and developer, my recipe for success with undertaking a conversion project involves gathering the right resources and information—this is where enlisting the help from local architects comes into play. Their expertise, vast network and knowledge of the local planning and permitting processes has proven to be instrumental for all of my projects with Denny’s. It’s also important as a business owner to trust your partners throughout the process. In my experience, collaboration and guidance from seasoned construction professionals (both the local and Denny’s corporate teams) will help to ensure the project can be executed in a timely-manner, especially when you’re juggling more than one project at a time. All in all, when a restaurant is closed and under construction for an extended period of time, this means that our loyal customers are of course, prone to dining elsewhere. Knowing and understanding how invaluable loyalists are to the success of your business is a key-driver to any restaurant opening and its overall performance.
What are some ways you’d like to see the remodel program evolve?
Denny’s has a number of competitor strengths as a franchisor and I truly believe that the Denny’s Heritage remodel program is one of them. Our leadership team is highly-knowledgeable and I’m pleased with how the Heritage remodel program has continued to develop since its inception in 2013. The ongoing enhancements to our food and atmosphere continue to receive favorable feedback from guests and from a franchisee standpoint, a positive guest experience and increase in sales is highly viable as a business owner.
What does the return on updated units look like compared to legacy ones?
As a franchisee, the remodel package offers an attractive ROI with mid-single sales increases.
From a broader perspective, what is the ground-level experience like competing in family dining right now? How much is it changing and what are you doing to stay ahead?
Denny’s is uniquely positioned as one of the most iconic “value driven” brands that focuses on hospitality and offers consumers a variety of food options at an affordable price. The brand’s ability to transform our image while keeping the value aspect of our business has been key to motivating our guests to see Denny’s as a relevant brand and satisfying their cravings for diner favorites. Coupled together with other in-restaurant and digital marketing initiatives, like our ‘Denny’s on Demand’ platform, makes for a solid strategy to keep the brand ahead of the game. As long as our guests understand our ongoing commitment to Denny’s food quality, value and how we ultimately share these experiences with them, the brand can continue to thrive in this competitive market.
How has technology changed the way your stores do business?
Absolutely. As a legacy brand, technology advancements have allowed for Denny’s to become a more “modern” brand. Especially now with all generations (Baby Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z) typically consuming some sort of virtual technology on a daily basis, we’re able to leverage this trend to reach a wider audience. Over the past few years, we’ve seen off-premises delivery and mobile ordering becoming more and more popular with consumers, so we had to keep up. As a 24/7 in-restaurant concept, this really meant we had to evolve to expand to also include a 24/7 digital model for ordering online and through your phone or desktop. In 2017, the brand completely revamped our mobile app to offer both takeout and delivery options 24 hours a day, seven days a week and to date, around 79 percent of the domestic system is actively engaged with one or more delivery service options. I believe there’s still a lot of potential to grow within this space.
Lastly, talk about labor. It’s the hot-button issue for restaurants right now. How do you approach the challenge as a franchisee?
Retaining great employees in today’s scarce labor market is the ultimate goal as a franchisee. Dealing with employee-related issues can be seen as one of the greatest challenges in franchising, or really any business model, but at the end of the day, it’s about making sure that all of your employees are taken care of and are treated fairly in their work environment.