Restaurant Development & Design

January-February 2017

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 6 3 America's Diner, Recreated In 2011, Denny's began overhauling its restaurants nationwide as part of its new "heritage" brand reimaging campaign. By the end of October, it had completed the revamp of 49 percent of its locations — more than 800 units. With each remodel, the company looks to pull in locally inspired design elements, including massive murals inside each unit depicting scenes from the communities in which the res- taurants reside, usually created from current or historical images. "We're looking to give the brand a more contemporary feel and looking at what is the American diner of the 2020s," says Joseph Giordano, senior director, franchise and company devel- opment. "We want to make our units as local as possible and connect with the local community. It gives a sense of ownership." To understand each community, Denny's works with local architects and design firms but also local chambers of commerce to find out what that local market is about, what people are proud of and what the community ties to. From this, the concept commis- sions a mural. In Atlanta, for example, there's a mural of the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor. And some of the location's other artwork has some images of Dr. King's family, "so it really relates back to the community," says Brian Harrison, senior manager of architectural design. In Las Vegas, the Denny's team tied the restaurant to traveling since so many people pass through the city. They created a large mural of license plates. "Each area we go into, we try to find that uniqueness," Harrison explains. But not everything changes. The counter remains the same since it's the cornerstone element in the brand's identi- ty as America's diner. And there is always a strong focus on booths in each loca- tion because Denny's has found it's what customers prefer. The ceilings are always dark brown, the floors are always tile and the Always Wall, which features the saying "Always Fresh, Always Here, Always Open," never changes. Taking a store-by-store approach to chain restaurants imbues each loca- tion with a story and an identity while ensuring stores retain elements vital to their brand. However, the split varies among chains. Teriyaki Madness, for example, is unconcerned about replication in its units beyond the basics. "We keep the key elements, but it's not neces- sarily clear each location is a Teriyaki Madness as soon as a customer walks in," Haith says. "I'm puzzled as to why chains need their interiors to be the same. People know it's a Teriyaki Mad- ness because they read the sign and walked in the door." + Locally-inspired murals and art are key elements in Denny's "heritage" reimaging campaign. Photos courtesy of Denny's

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