Since kicking off its strategy to become a majority-franchised company, Denny’s continues to sell corporate stores. The initial goal was to migrate Denny’s franchised units from 90 percent to 95-97 percent over 18 months. In order to get there, Denny’s needs to move between 90-125 company units.
Denny’s closed three sales in Q1 and has dealt another three so far in Q2. Since last October, it’s refranchised 14 venues.
“The pace of transactions is on schedule with our expectations, and we continue to be encouraged by the interest from the franchise community,” Denny’s chief financial officer Mark Wolfinger said. “We are excited to use this refranchising strategy to stimulate additional growth for our franchise partners and to attract new franchisees to the Denny's brand.”
Wolfinger estimated that Denny’s would generate $30 million from the sale of 25-30 percent of 95 company-owned properties. The sale of these lower-volume restaurants will also help the company acquire higher-quality locations.
Refranchising is just one part of Denny’s aggressive growth strategy, though.
Since the revitalization began last October, more than 350 restaurants have opened. At the end of the first quarter, Denny’s restaurant count was 1,705 locations.
Denny’s also launched a new training system during Q1 in order to maintain standards across all locations. The “Delight and Make It Right” service platform is an e-learning system created along with franchisees to enhance field training and reinforce proper processes.
“While we have made substantial progress thus far, we acknowledge opportunities remain in order to achieve our full potential. We are focused on closing the gaps to those expectations,” Miller said.
Denny’s still has room to grow outside the four walls. At the beginning of Q1, roughly 71 percent of domestic locations interacted with delivery services. That number grew to 79 percent by the end of the quarter. Over the course of Q1, delivery-capable locations grew from 77 to 89 percent.
“This means we have an opportunity to further grow our off-premises business as more restaurants eligible for delivery sign on to actively participate with delivery partners,” Miller said.
Off-premises accounted for 12 percent of total sales across Denny’s. This is up from 7 percent when the chain first launched Denny’s On Demand almost two years ago.
“Our expanding off-premise strategy enables us to reach younger guests and increase our brand awareness,” Miller said.
Denny’s shook up its core menu during Q1, adding chicken tenders and a new wild-caught haddock fillet to the menu. The chain also rolled out Strawberry Pancake Puppies, crepes, and a Southwest chorizo burger on its LTO menu.