In April, the company will launch a new recruiting site that will highlight job and career opportunities at the chain.  

In an effort to help employees develop their careers at Denny’s and become strong team leaders, the chain continues to innovate and and craft its Breakthrough Leadership Training and Development Program. The casual-dining chain announced March 18 a partnership with all-star power to the program to help recruitment in the workplace. Athlete and business leader Earvin “Magic” Johnson will share his experience as an entrepreneur, athlete, philanthropist, and business leader with program participants.

“Partnering with Magic is such a natural fit for us,” John Dillon, senior vice president and chief brand officer at Denny’s, said in a statement. “His business acumen and commitment to building diverse workforces aligns well with Denny’s efforts and our passion for supporting the communities we serve. Over the coming months, Denny’s looks forward to visiting several communities in which we will provide job opportunities and information about careers in the hospitality industry. Johnson’s assistance in our efforts will help us reach a broad audience to share skills and insights that will help them grow personally and professionally.”

The Breakthrough Leadership Training and Development program allows team member’s access to various interactive workshops, simulations, and educational training videos. The training program reflects business and leadership challenges that team leaders could encounter in real life, therefore preparing them to be ready to handle those challenges appropriately.

READ MORE: Why Refranchising is the Key to Denny’s Success

“Denny’s is doing this right,” Johnson said in a statement. “Having spent time with the senior leadership team and having witnessed firsthand their commitment to recruiting local talent, training their employees, and making a positive impact in their local communities, it’s obvious they are approaching their goals the right way.  Magic Johnson Enterprises has always been focused on developing programs that create jobs and careers in the areas in which we invest. Over the coming months, I look forward to participating in Denny’s recruiting and training efforts and I am proud to support their team.” 

Along with the new partnership with Johnson, Denny’s will also be launching a new complementary recruiting site will highlight job and career opportunities at the chain. Earlier in the year, Denny’s also teamed up with Johnson earlier to develop a regional specialized menu in Southern California. The specialty items come with tips demonstrating health alternatives for classic meals. 

“Denny’s success and our ability to achieve breakthrough results is directly dependent upon the effectiveness of our leaders and team members,” said Chris Bode, Chief Operating Officer at Denny’s. “We believe there is a leader inside of everyone. We have had the pleasure of working with Magic Johnson and his Foundation for the past eight years, and we understand and support his commitment to youth and education. We are privileged to have this opportunity to continue working together to recruit and build a best-in-class workforce that will help us foster an environment and culture that will sustain our business for years to come.”

The partnership with Johnson comes at a time when Denny’s is taking action to improve operations, enhancing customer experience, and modernizing restaurants through remodels. Denny’s is currently undergoing an effort to refranchise and reach a level between 95-97 percent franchised stores. By having strong leaders in place, the company hopes it will reduce turnover and show employees the benefits of having a stable career within the restaurant. 

For the eighth consecutive year in a row, Denny’s reported positive same-store sales growth at the end of 2018. Domestic same-store sales increased 1.4 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2018. Compared to 2017, Denny’s ended 2018 with a 2.1 percent growth in same-store sales, Denny’s executive vice president and chief financial officer noted on a February 12 earnings call. 

Dillon took some time to chat with FSR about the initiative, Denny’s commitment to employees, and why a diverse workplace leads to company-wide success.

Talk about diversity and inclusion at Denny’s. How has the brand always led on these initiatives when it comes to training and employee development?

We truly embrace our role as America’s Diner, which by its very nature is inclusive and welcoming to all, at all different times of the day and night. For more than 60 years, local families and communities across the country have made Denny’s a neighborhood gathering spot, and we’re incredibly proud of that heritage. Given today’s guest and today’s employees are naturally diverse, it’s even more important that we help lead the way here within our industry. So, like any good neighbor would, we help support the diverse causes that our communities care about, and we spend the time investing in our diverse employees and striving to be more and more diverse within our workforce.

How important is that in today’s restaurant world, and how is Denny’s leading the charge?

Diversity is not only important in the restaurant world, it’s important in the world as a whole. And building diversity within any organization is simply the right thing to do, so we’re proud of the work we’ve done and strive to do every day here at Denny’s. As of the end of 2018, 67 percent of our workforce is made up of diverse team members. At the restaurant management level, 52 percent of our management team members are diverse. The board of Denny’s Corporation consists of 10 directors, of which 50 percent are minorities and 30 percent are women. So clearly, we believe a diverse workplace leads to success by representing the diversity of the population today and diversity in thoughts, experiences and beliefs. It’s the right thing to do as America’s Diner, and it’s the right thing to do in society. 

Are leadership opportunities and promoting from within two goals Denny’s has in mind with the changes.

At Denny’s we feel like one big family and have always looked to develop internally and promote from within; it provides for career growth and promotes brand advocates, and frankly it just leads to better success. Collectively we believe there’s a leader in each and every one of our team members, and this partnership with Magic Johnson bring his entrepreneurial experience and passion to the table to help us attract the best talent, and his business savvy to help us promote our breakthrough leadership programs that will build strong leaders.

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Given the tight labor market and gig economy, how does Denny’s inspire retention through programs such as this?

We believe a focus on programs such as this will help us relate to today’s diverse job seekers, and those looking to further both their careers and their leadership skills. This type of leadership development program we believe stands out in a very competitive space. After all, the success of any company is based on its people, the leaders you hire and develop. Denny’s wants to show and highlight the Breakthrough programs we have developed to attract great people to the brand and develop them into leaders in the restaurant industry that we hope will make Denny’s their home. And we may be a bit biased, but we believe the restaurant industry is such a powerful and flexible industry, and one that you can get into at many different levels and both develop leadership skills within it and turn it into a rewarding life-long career. 

What are some of the highlights of the program?

Our Breakthrough Leadership Program training is meant to develop the essential skills and experience needed to operate a million-dollar restaurant business. The program includes developing skills in leadership and people management, financial acumen, guest service, inventory management, food preparation and food safety, among many others. Denny’s team members will have access to numerous creative and interactive employee engagement curricula, leadership workshops, simulations, games and mobile learning and educational training videos that cater to modern learning methods. Having our team members interact and learn in this way will lead not only to our brand’s business success, but also build life and career skills for the future for all our employees.

How did Denny’s and Magic Johnson connect? And why was this such a great fit?

Denny’s has had the great fortune of working with Magic Johnson and his Foundation for the past eight years, and we understand and support his commitment to communities, to youth and to education. He’s been a genuine long-time fan of the Denny’s brand, as we have been a fan of his. What we have realized more and more recently is how strong Magic’s brand and connection is with so many audiences. While he has had tremendous success on the court, even more impressive has been his success in the community and as a business leader. As we met with him and talked more recently, it became such a natural fit to take our partnership to the next level. So, we developed these initiatives to recruit and build a best-in-class workforce that will help us foster an environment and culture that will sustain our business for years to come. This partnership is focused on developing leaders in our organization and embracing Magic’s successful role in empowering communities of all kinds and attracting and retaining great talent for the organizations he has been and is involved with. And oh, by the way, he’s helped develop a fresh-focused “LA Favorites” menu with some incredible menu items in the Los Angeles area. It’s a partnership that we have confidence will be a win for both our guests, the community, and for our team members in our restaurants.

Casual Dining, Chain Restaurants, Feature, Labor & Employees, Denny's