Oct 1, 2021 | Report Announcements

Denny’s unique “America’s Diner” brand positioning provides the promise of everyday value with craveable, indulgent products (comfort food) served around the clock in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere (come as you are). Denny’s wants to be known as the most admired and loved “local” family chain. Breakfast all-day options typically entail operational complexities that are difficult for QSR competitors to replicate (everything is made to order) and the chain’s goal is to convert very high brand awareness of this core equity into trial of its lunch/diner offers (helping to drive frequency). To this end, the brand has developed credibility around burgers, melts & skillets. Notably, while value plays an important role to its core customer (boomers & seniors), its $2 $4 $6 $8 value menu mix is currently running at the low-end of typical range and streamlining efforts have helped drive trade-up to more expensive lunch & dinner options. This is helping the chain’s post-lockdown recovery which is reflected by 2Q21 system comps which declined just -1.2% on a 2-year stacked basis (with AUVs approaching 2019 levels despite staffing challenges that have hindered a return to 24/7 operations across its system). Current sales benefit from off-premise stickiness and incremental sales generated by its 2 new virtual brands (Burger Den & Meltdown). In any case, while its 2019 AUV represented the system’s all-time high, its family segment underperformance reveals an opportunity to improve capacity utilization beyond breakfast. Further, Denny’s AUV is also challenged by the impact of lower performing stores and AUV variability driven by lower menu/offer prices in lower cost markets (particularly in wage tip credit states). Notably, a sharp decline in its 2020 EBITDAR margin reflected material post-lockdown sales deleverage which pressured labor and other operating margins. In conclusion, now that Denny’s has largely returned to its 2019 unit-level financial performance, the chain must continue to contemporize by making further progress around lunch and dinner while also leveraging progress around off-premise to extend its reach to a younger demo.



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