Denny's Drives Hungry Mobile Diners Through Its Restaurant Doors With Yext
- Food & Service
- 1,400 Locations
- Spartanburg, South Carolina
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.
Denny’s uses Yext to power brand verified answers across search experiences.
Winning customer attention and loyalty is particularly challenging in the food service industry. Food service is the most highly-searched vertical, and the majority of hungry searchers are looking for a specific cuisine or restaurant attribute, asking questions such as “has wi-fi,” “good for kids,” or “what time is Denny’s open until?”
Yext enables brands like Denny’s to power brand verified answers in response to customer queries across their websites, mobile apps, internal systems, and the entire Knowledge Network — approximately 175 digital services globally, including Google, Amazon Alexa, Apple, Bing, Facebook, Yahoo, and Yelp. “Yext offers unique advantages through its technology platform and proprietary publisher integrations,” Jensen continues. “First and foremost, it enhanced our local search in terms of breadth and depth for our digital presence.”
The account team integrated Yext into Denny’s existing franchisee portal system and developed customized access levels. “We wanted both to allow deep customization of each local page and also to ensure that franchisees could easily access their Yext Pages,” recalls Jensen. “Yext helped us accomplish this by tying its platform into a system we already have, which means that our franchisees actually access Yext Pages and Yext Facebook listings through our own internal portal! From there, franchisees have different levels of access within this portal depending on their role in the organization.”
With Yext’s advanced customization capabilities, Dillon and his team are able to retain control of the corporate brand and messaging, while still giving franchisees the freedom to localize their own digital presence and thereby enhance local customer engagement and improve the customer search experience.
Dillon and his team’s minds are at ease knowing Denny’s digital presence is consistent, accurate, and optimized for hungry mobile consumers searching for a place to eat. “Our brand information simply must be accurate for us to be in, if not stay ahead of the game. Missing phone numbers, incorrect addresses — that is unacceptable in this day and age,” states Dillon. “The cost of inaccuracies is difficult to quantify since we don’t know exactly how many customers we were losing due to incorrect information. Regardless, at a baseline correct listings is an infrastructure issue, and Yext is a unique solution to address that.”
Beyond maintaining accurate listings, Dillon and his team can also measure the impact Yext has had on Denny’s digital engagement.
The most striking results were the result of adding structured menu data — this helped Denny’s show up more often in searches for the food items they serve, like “pancakes” or “eggs,” and drove a 26% increase in Google Search Views.
In the first year after Denny’s switched from another solution to Yext Pages, the brand saw a 100% increase in local page impressions. Yext Pages are proven to be continuously optimized, so their performance improves over time. In fact, two years after launching Yext Pages, impressions on Denny’s local pages had increased 174% from their original level.
“We unveiled Yext at our most recent national convention, and Yext was the only partner or vendor we invited to present personally its technology to the franchisees,” notes Dillon. “Yext is now fundamentally embedded into our marketing initiatives and digital presence system, so it was crucial to us that the franchisees fully understand the opportunity and value Yext can provide when leveraged correctly and consistently.” Dillon adds, “Yext helped us get our franchisees efficiently trained, and the majority of them do use it on a regular basis. Yext is also coordinating a series of webinars to keep our franchisees engaged.”
Since launching with Yext, Denny’s has driven over 73 million clicks to its listings and experiences 36% year-over-year growth in clicks on these listings.
Denny’s also uses Yext to display a more complete view of its brand experience online and to increase discoverability. Yext Reviews enables businesses like Denny’s to generate and manage location reviews across sources including Google, Yelp, Facebook, and more. Reviews makes it easier to encourage customers to review restaurants, providing credibility and visibility in search.
“Yext Reviews has allowed Denny’s to tap into an important source of guest feedback — those who have visited us most recently,” said Luis Martinez, Senior Manager, Brand Engagement. “By encouraging our guests to share their experiences with us, we have gained a more accurate picture of our current in-restaurant experience. By leveraging these new ratings in our local store pages, we have also seen a lift in our local SEO. Implementation was seamless and an important step towards maximizing the opportunity presented by Yext.”
Denny’s has an average rating of 3.5 across the Knowledge Network. Two months after launching with Yext, Denny’s first-party reviews (i.e., reviews submitted directly to its company website) beat the third-party rating by over a full point.
“What’s remarkable is that if you proactively ask for reviews, you’ll generate really good reviews from happy customers who might otherwise have stayed silent,” explains Martinez. “Yext provides an easy way to invite our guests to review us online and spread the word.”
With Sentiment Analysis in Yext, Denny’s is able to run sophisticated reports to identify customer feedback trends on a massive set of over 1.2M reviews. The far-reaching insights provided by Yext on Denny’s customer experience allowed the team to consolidate their customer experience management tools and realize significant cost savings with Yext.