If you watched Sunday's Super Bowl, you probably saw the Denny's ad announcing it was serving free "Grand Slam" breakfasts, from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., yesterday. With a bad economy and people always wanting free stuff, I wondered how large the turnout would be. Well, two million Americans--that's 2/3 of a percent of the U.S. population--took Denny's up on the offer and ate the breakfast.
One Chicago Tribune reporter went to five different locations and ate FIVE Grand Slam breakfasts. So, how much did this giveaway cost? Denny's says it cost a total of $5 million, including the cost of the Super Bowl ad and other promotion. $5 million to feed 2 million people--that's not bad. Denny's actually made money or at least broke even on the giveaway. How did the restaurant chain do it? Here's the catch: the drinks were not free.
The entire promotion - including food, labor and airing an ad on Sunday's Super Bowl - cost Denny's about $5 million. "We're re-acquainting America with Denny's," says CEO Nelson Marchioli. "We've never been thanked this much - and folks are saying they'll come back."
The gambit earned Denny's something that money alone can't buy: positive public relations, and lots of it. By Denny's estimates, it got $50 million in free news coverage, almost all of it positive. No injuries - or police issues - were reported at any locations, say Denny's officials.
Denny's didn't do this just out of the goodness of its heart, however. The because its franchise sales at sites were down 7.2% last quarter at a time the hobbled economy ought to be giving it an opportunity to nudge the market-share needle. Consumer response to the promotion has been all Denny's could hope for. Besides guests at restaurants on Tuesday, the Denny's website has had 40 million hits since the Super Bowl ad aired.
I think this was a smart investment. People who might never have tried Denny's--due to it's image, might have changed their minds after tasting the free meal. And, you'll note from the video (and in other reports I saw), a sizeable portion of the customers for the promotion were Black. In the past, many Blacks shunned Denny's, after it was sued over alleged discrimination against Black customers. Perhaps this is the way for Denny's to re-attract them. So did you get your free breakfast?