Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information on the menu update from Denny’s.
- Denny’s added nine permanent items to its menu, including several French toast items and salads, the company said in a press release Thursday.
- Denny’s previously invested $25 million to upgrade and optimize kitchen equipment, create new food items, improve efficiency and cut down on food waste. It rolled out a menu with augmented reality earlier this year, allowing guests to take a virtual tour of the menu and access exclusive deals.
- The new fall menu “incorporate[s] many of the learnings from our comprehensive research to better understand our core guests as well as help enable operational efficiencies and improve margins,” Denny’s CEO Kelli Valade said during the company’s October earnings call.
Denny’s joins a growing list of casual brands revamping their menus, including Red Robin, Chili’s and TGI Fridays, as part of a strategy to boost traffic and entice new customers. BJ’s Restaurant also rolled out a new menu this year with 15% fewer items. Its innovation team will continue to add new items and drinks, however, BJ’s CEO Greg Levin said during the company’s October earnings call.
In addition to the new items, Denny’s also simplified its menu layout with fewer customizations and build-your-own categories that took up a large portion of the menu, Valade said. The areas will be used to highlight breakfast items and value while also “reigniting our equity in such areas as our Slam platform,” she said.
“The menu architecture and design amplify what we've learned is most important to our guests and business, while not decreasing the overall number of menu items,” Valade said.
The company will still provide customization when asked, but it was de-emphasized on the menu “in the interest of improving and lessening complexity.”
“One of the things that we went into this with was really looking at where are the best items for not only what the guest is craving, but then also from a margin standpoint, so that went into the design, the layout, front to back and everything that we did had that in mind as well,” Valade said. “So while difficult to tell yet, we don't expect it to have a negative impact at all. And in fact we hope there's a bit of upside to what we're doing and how we've looked at this menu.”
Most of Denny’s restaurants operate 24/7, and its all-day dining format gives the chain the opportunity to offer all-day breakfast items, which led the team to add a premium option with its Brioche French Toast, said Kristen Didier, Denny’s VP of marketing, in an email to Restaurant Dive.
The casual chain also took into account guest feedback for beverage options, which led to the addition of items like cold brew coffee.
“Beyond breakfast, guests asked for more craveable salad options using quality ingredients,” Didier said. “Our chef team delivered fresh, flavor-packed entrée salads like the new Egg-Cellent Grilled Chicken Cobb. And what would a menu be without a satisfying chicken sandwich? We sourced the perfect crispy chicken bacon ranch sandwich to fulfill that need.”
A new pricing model has also been incorporated that will not only highlight the chain’s value, but also allow franchisees to take pricing that align with regional factors and “localized competitive benchmarking,” Valade said.
Part of its ongoing menu innovation is made possible with new technology in the kitchen. Denny’s has added new ovens that allow for more menu options and efficiency, she said. About 50 menu items are prepared using the new ovens, including proteins, oven-baked entrees and desserts.
“The culinary and operation teams are continuing to learn and explore opportunities to leverage our kitchen equipment further driving menu innovation and kitchen efficiencies,” Valade said.
The company has also been revising the menu at Keke’s, which it acquired in 2022. The new menu has fewer items, which reduces complexity in the kitchen, and a cleaner look allowing the breakfast chain to highlight its ingredients and made-from-scratch items.
“The menu redesign has already led to check growth, and we're still testing alcohol in several cafes also with promising results,” Valade said.