Denny’s, the quick-service restaurant chain, is putting inclusivity at the heart of its strategy as it seeks deepen bonds with multicultural consumers.

John Dillon, SVP/CMO, Denny’s Corp., discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2019 Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference.

In May 2019, the brand introduced a communications strategy based around the notion of “nothing can bring us together like Denny’s” – an idea that could be expressed in nuanced ways to various audience pockets.

And this proposition, Dillon told the ANA assembly, embodies a powerful message of inclusivity that is at the very core of Denny’s brand identity.

“Fifty-three of our guests in our restaurants today are multicultural,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: How Denny’s fights a negative “diner” stereotype with multicultural initiatives.)

Not only do Latino, Black and Asian-American consumers all make up a significant portion of Denny’s audience, but over two-thirds of these consumers identify as “heavy users”.

“That’s huge for our business,” Dillon said – not least because of the broader demographic changes in the US that are pointing towards a multicultural majority.

But the brand also has an uneven legacy with multicultural consumers: in 1994, Denny’s settled a class-action suit filed by Black customers who had been refused service, forced to wait longer, or even pay more than white customers.

“We had some discrimination issues,” Dillon recalled, “that – whether real or perceived – were real at the time. It was something that was in the news, and quite frankly, nearly killed the brand.

“We’ve done tremendous things since this happened. But it still comes up. When I talk to consumers across the country about the brand, they ask, ‘Aren’t you the place that a few years ago had that issue?’”

Denny’s is thus aiming to make sure it recognises multicultural consumers in meaningful ways, and that its diners are places “where we’re respected and welcomed to be our most authentic selves.”

Its research, in fact, revealed that diners were seen as a “well-loved classic place for all”, and as venues that connect “people from different backgrounds”, “places of social inclusion”, and for “bringing people together for moments that matter.”

With those “diner” guideposts combining to shape a distinct road of differentiation, Dillon said, “We could lean into even more than other restaurant brands to really center our messaging on this all-embracing inclusion and welcoming message.”

Sourced from WARC