New York’s first Denny’s opened last month, and the menu features a $300 breakfast that includes a bottle of Dom Perignon. Unthinkable for a chain that bills itself as a "value brand"? Not in lower Manhattan – within a week the restaurant had gone through a case of bubbly.
Is this the beginning of a new direction for "America' Diner"? Will you be served caviar with your next order of Moons Over My Hammy? Will we need to decide between "resort casual" or "festive" attire for our next visit?
No, no and no.
Denny's "Grand Cru Slam" is not a strategic move. It's a publicity stunt dreamed up by the Manhattan franchise operator, and it's a good one. It gets Denny's in the press and, together with the craft cocktail menu, it plays well to the denizens of Wall Street and local hipsters hungry for a bit of American kitsch.
The broader chain and its other 1,699 restaurants, however, remain focused on promoting $2-$8 value menus and on unpretentious remodels of their oldest locations.
But the champagne breakfast is an interesting case for marketers nonetheless. It shows how, in the right place and at the right time, a brand can make an unexpected move that generates publicity without confusing its stakeholders. A $300 Denny's breakfast in Detroit would likely have been a PR disaster. But in NY it creates a buzz that gives the entire brand a bit of lift. It's driven at least a dozen $300 sales for franchise owner Rahul Marwa. And with a bottle of Dom selling for $240 at local liquor stores, it's actually a pretty darn good deal for diners.