What began as one 24-hour donut stand has evolved into Denny's, America's Diner, a global restaurant chain with more than 1,700 franchise locations worldwide.
"Our founder in 1953 was asked why he started Denny's restaurants and said simply, 'I love to feed people,'" recounts Chief Marketing Officer John Dillon. "As a brand, we have poignantly held on to that love of purpose over the years and embraced it internally. We feed people, literally and emotionally, from all walks of life in the United States and around the world. We feed people's souls. Anyone can walk in and connect with us in a different way than he or she would at a fast food place or even at a normal sit down restaurant. We have CEOs sitting next to plumbers at the diner counter. Everyone's equal. Our restaurants are unique places of local connection. We are America's Diner."
"Almost everybody has been to a Denny's at some point in life," explains Dillon, "which is a great thing in terms of brand awareness, but it can also present a challenge — often people's memories of visiting a Denny's is from 5, 10, 20 years ago. We want to bring past memories into the present and encourage more recent experiences."
Denny's was eager to enhance its online search experience so it could serve today's mobile-empowered customers of all ages. "Clearly everyone is talking about millennials, and we are no different. We're highly focused on presenting our restaurants in more relevant ways to all generations," says Dillon. With such a wide-range of menu items, and hours that are 24/7, Denny's has an unusually varied set of competitors.
"Our breakfast competition is different from our dinner competition, which is different from our late night competition. Weekday breakfast differs from weekend breakfast, and so on," he explains. "We recognize that consumers — not just millennials — are more mobile, so our digital presence and search experience is key to winning and keeping attention and loyalty."
Leveraging a national brand at the local level is also a major consideration for Denny's. "90–92% of our system is franchised, so locally relevant and locally owned is important to us. Having a unique presence with local communities is a critical part of the Denny's brand," explains Erik Jensen, Senior Director of Brand Engagement. "We wanted to enable our franchisees to update their own local web pages and local social channels, particularly on Facebook, and actually reach out to their specific customers, which we just can't do at a national level."
Dillon and his team realized they needed to invest in a comprehensive, scalable technology solution that would strengthen the visibility of the Denny's brand and menu items in local, high-intent listings across search results — ensuring that hungry customers searching for food nearby always found the Denny's brand.