Cutting edge and Denny’s are not commonly muttered in the same sentence. Unless you consider cutesy names for their heaping breakfast platters, such as “Moons Over My Hammy”, as cutting edge. But all that may be changing as Denny’s rolls out a new strategy to attract a much different audience to their late-night offerings. It’s no secret the recession has hit casual dining places like Denny’s particularly hard. So, what does the 56-year-old restaurant chain do to bolster slumping sales? It tries something completely different. To bring in more late-night diners, Denny’s is introducing the Allnighter program and is sponsoring alternative rock bands to come play live in the restaurant between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., positioning itself to be THE after-party spot – hip, cool, and yes, cutting edge.

How’s it Working?

To date more than 30 emerging bands have taken part in the sponsorship opportunity, which gets them free meals while touring in return for playing a couple gigs as part of an after show in the Denny’s restaurant. Denny’s has also added many cheap, late night items to its menu to cater to the new clientele, and is offering the late night crowd a more social experience than the one they would get at a typical late night drive through. One can only think that by effectively building on the music and the social community, these late-night attractions will not only bolster sales, but go a long way in reviving the image of the brand. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks?

The Verdict is Still Out

Whether or not this foray into late night will be a success, you have to applaud the chain for the effort. It has the opportunity to be a win-win for all involved. It provides the chain with a much needed brand face lift, gives fledgling bands an outlet and some national exposure through people talking about the program, and becomes an alternative hangout for the younger crowd to socialize, or at least sober up before calling it a night.

What Can Small Businesses Learn From Denny’s?

The biggest lesson in all of this may be that if what you are doing isn’t working anymore, don’t be afraid to try something new, drastically new even. Denny’s has done the same thing year in and year out for 50+ years – they saw it wasn’t working right now, and looked for an alternative. In the face of lacklustre sales, and a weak economy the businesses that put themselves out there stand the best chance of reaping the rewards. If sales are down, why not try out some new ideas? If they don’t work, you’re no worse off, right? You don’t need fancy customer segmentation or data analysis software to tell you that!

Also, look at what you do well and then find ways to dovetail that with what people currently want. In the case of Denny’s, they know how to do late night eats, so why not combine that with a social atmosphere that includes music, to see if they can expand their market in the late night hours with young, hungry, patrons. Not only are they providing what people want, they are interacting with them how they want as well. You can now find Denny’s on Facebook, and Twitter, and if social media is working for them you need to at least consider what it can do for you.

All of this may not have been part of Denny’s original business model, but then again they weren’t selling as many “Moons Over My Hammy” as they used to either. Drastic times may call for drastic measures, and those measures can result in a win for everybody.

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