From television tie-ins to jambalaya in Japan, Denny's has been serving up grand slams at midnight for decades.
1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY NAMED "DANNY’S."
Richard Jezak and Harold Butler opened the first "Danny’s Donuts" in Lakewood, Calif. in 1953. There was no notable “Danny” in either of their lives; they just thought the alliteration was charming. The 24-hour doughnut shop grew quickly, expanding to a larger menu and roughly 20 locations by 1959, and changing its name to Danny’s Coffee Shops along the way. But the founders worried that the mini-chain was at risk of getting confused with nearby Coffee Dan’s, so they switched one letter to create the Denny’s we know today.
2. HANK AARON INSPIRED THE SIGNATURE BREAKFAST.
Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast combo platter debuted in an Atlanta location in 1977, as a nod to Hank Aaron, who had set a new MLB home run record while playing for the Braves three years before.
3. DENNY’S ALMOST NEVER CLOSES—WHICH MEANS IT ONCE OVERLOOKED A VERY IMPORTANT FEATURE...
Denny’s has been famous for decades for their 24-hour promise all 365 days of the year—if you want breakfast food late at night on a Sunday, Denny’s has you covered. But the problem with this policy took a few years to show itself: When almost all the Denny’s locations closed for Christmas Day in 1988, many stores realized that they didn’t have any keys, or even locks, since they never used them. All told, 700 of the 1221 restaurants needed to get new locks installed for the holiday.
4. WHEN DENNY’S OFFERED FREE FOOD, THEY REALIZED HOW MANY PEOPLE LOVE FREE FOOD.
In 2009 and 2010 Denny’s ran a rather tantalizing Super Bowl ad. The spot promised a free Grand Slam breakfast to all customers one day the week following the big game. After serving up two million free meals each of those years, the chain called off the free-for-all.
5. DENNY’S LOVED BREAKING BAD.
Few companies wanted to be associated with the gritty show, but Breaking Bad paid Denny’s to use one of the restaurants in multiple scenes, and despite the unsavory nature of the scenes (like, a place to grab a bite after a murder), the brand embraced the connection, which helped kick off a new kind of product placement. Last year, fans were outraged when the Albuquerque location that appeared in the show moved, even if it was just two miles away.
6. IT'S ALSO BEEN ON SOUTH PARK.
Denny’s was an early adopter of the belief that if something is good, adding bacon to it only makes it better. In 2011, they unveiled a “Baconalia” menu, which featured the popular pork product in items like pancakes, meatloaf, and even an ice cream sundae. The decadent offerings made a brief cameo on South Park where the boys all show up every night for Baconalia; again, Denny's loved the exposure. Two years later, Denny’s brought back an expanded Baconalia menu for another brief stint.
7. DENNY’S LOVES THE HOBBIT MOVIES.
In both 2012 and 2013, Denny’s featured a limited-time Middle Earth menu pegged to installments of The Hobbit movies. Most of the items included classic autumnal flavors like turkey, pecan, and pumpkin, and seemed plenty hearty enough to not necessitate a second breakfast.
8. IN JAPAN, DENNY’S MAKES JAMBALAYA—IN MICROWAVABLE FORM.
The Japanese Denny’s menu has some divergences from what we know here in America. One of the most notable is the jambalaya—which is so popular that this year, Denny’s partnered with the makers of Cup of Noodle to create a line of instant microwavable jambalaya, available in grocery stores and Denny’s locations across Japan.
9. NEW YORK CITY’S DENNY’S ADDS A LITTLE CLASS TO CLASSIC DINER BREAKFAST.
New York City got its first Denny’s in 2014, and the Financial District diner does things a little differently than other locations. To infuse a little Big Apple sophistication, the menu includes cocktails—often pricier than main courses—and a $300 “Grand Cru Slam” breakfast. For the cost of an upscale dinner, a pair of patrons can get two grand slam breakfasts and a vintage bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon Premier Cru champagne—and a “bartender high-five.”
10. DENNY’S LANDED SOME BIG-NAME CELEBS FOR A WEB SERIES.
In 2011, eager to attract a younger demographic, Denny’s debuted “Always Open,” a web series featuring SNL alum and Anchorman star David Koechner chatting with major celebrities like Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Chris Pratt at an L.A. Denny’s. Denny’s partnered with CollegeHumor.com and production company DumbDumb for the unscripted, three- to four-minute videos, which didn’t even include any direct mention of the brand.