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How has one of the most traditional of US brands transferred its 'Always Open' approach to online?

Denny’s 2012 annual report stated its main aim is “to revitalise Denny’s image with our America’s Diner positioning.”

Through menu, service and environment initiatives Denny’s has sought to truly own its ‘Always Open’ mantra, by driving more hungry Americans to its restaurants through various in-restaurant promotions.

Has this franchise-based business with its roots firmly in the 24 hour roadside diner boom of the 1950s, managed to embrace the 'Always Open' aspect of the digital world, in order to drive further traffic into restaurants and revitalise its image?


Dennys.com is a clean, full-screen and simple website.


Every area is brightly sign-posted. Home couldn’t be more clearly labeled. The carousel has only three images, to avoid information overload. The Food Menu is a simple click away, same with the restaurant locator. The texts are large and dark, contrasting well with the background. The colour red is a key signifier for clickability.

The social buttons are also clear, but if the user thinks they're not clear enough there are supporting statements with each one - Facebook: let’s be friends.

Are the lack of visual pyrotechnics here to attract a clientele that perhaps has little to no experience of the internet? It seems like a safe gambit. You’re not going to put anyone off by having a simplistic design, you’re only going to encourage them to come aboard.

But perhaps its patronising to assume this. The Denny’s website belies an awful lot of intuitivity and positive user experience features.

The Menu bar at the top has little red buttons that swipe the page along to other pages that align to the tabs along the top.

The Food Menu page is a work of user experience brilliance.

There’s no need to dig further into the website to gather any information you may need, it’s all right there on the page in front of you.

Each option opens up in a delectable drop down menu, providing eye-catching images of each of the dishes.

Restaurant finder is, of course, a key way to help guide your customers through the door. 


The map is powered by a company called Where 2 Get It. It offers a trip planner, directions from your location to the restaurant nearest you and also offers the function to email you the address or text it to your mobile. 


Denny’s has a good understanding of using digital to drive exclusive offers for online consumers.


Here you can order a Denny’s gift card online and have it delivered to your special someone. There are also details on how to apply for a free Grand Slam on your birthday and there’s also a rewards programme.

This allows the free-flow of offers and incentives direct to the online user’s inbox. A key incentive to get signed-up and later visit a restaurant. 

Perhaps Denny’s biggest online coup is a promotion with the forthcoming sequel to The Hobbit.

Here users can upload a video of themselves to prove they are Middle Earth's biggest fan via Youtube, and the winner will be handpicked by director Peter Jackson.

Entry to the competition is a very simple process, and only requires knowledge of how to upload a video to Youtube.

Denny’s has proved itself quite savvy here, The Lord of the Rings films are one of the most successful family franchises of recent years, and Youtube is the most social of channels with users spending more time on Youtube than Facebook or Twitter and viewing more pages per minute.

Denny’s is embracing a new generation of diners through the most technological and thriving social media channel.


Denny’s has a well maintained presence on Twitter. Responding personally and with some degree of wit to customer mentions and interactions.

Denny’s also seeks to share other interesting articles from around the web with comment.

All of this is good practice for a large corporate chain. Being entertaining and useful on Twitter only makes for a deeper brand recognition and certainly even makes this cynical man warm to them. (Here are 10 more branded Twitter accounts that can raise a laugh). 

Denny’s runs a similar social strategy on Facebook, sharing much of the same content. Which is a shame as it certainly pays to differentiate between social channels; to offer something in return for following. If the user is getting the same content in two channels, the user will soon close one of them.

Denny’s has a very limited presence on Pinterest, with just 123 pins and 315 followers (Denny’s has 41,697 followers on Twitter, 776,000 on Facebook), so it has a lot of catching up to do here. Pinterest is a fantastic visual way of communicating to potential customers and is fast rivaling Facebook and Twitter in driving sales.  

Here’s more information on how retailers can use Pinterest to drive sales and a Pinterest for Business Best Practice Guide.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 28 October, 2013 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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