Denny's Drives Mobile Diners Through Doors with Digital Presence

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Denny's Drives Mobile Diners Through Doors with Digital Presence

07/25/2016
What began as one 24-hour donut stand has evolved into Denny's, America's Diner, a global restaurant chain today with over 1,700 franchise locations worldwide. "Almost everybody has been to a Denny's at some point in life," explains chief marketing officer John Dillon, "which is a great thing in terms of brand awareness, but it can also present a challenge – often people's memories of visiting a Denny's is from 5, 10, 20 years ago. We want to bring past memories into the present and encourage more recent experiences."

As such Denny's has enhanced its digital presence to serve today's mobile-empowered consumers of all ages. "Clearly everyone is talking about millennials, and we are no different. We're highly focused on presenting our restaurants in more relevant ways to all generations," says Dillon.

With such a wide-range of menu items and hours that are 24/7, Denny's has an unusually wide swath of competitors. "Our breakfast competition is different from our dinner competition, which is different from our late night competition," claims Dillon. "We recognize that consumers—not just millennials—are more mobile, so our digital presence is key to winning and keeping attention and loyalty."

Driving Diners to Restaurant Doors
According to a recent Yext study, winning that attention and loyalty is particularly challenging in the food service industry. Not only is food service the most highly-searched vertical, but it is also the most competitive, with 93% of consumers reporting that they considered more than one option when searching for a place to dine, and 65% claimed to consider at least three before making a final decision.*

Dillon and his team realized they needed to invest in a comprehensive, scalable technology solution that would strengthen the visibility of Denny's local listings in search results thereby ensuring that hungry customers searching for food nearby always found the Denny's brand. "We were not getting the sort of traction we needed from our previous attempted technology solution. We knew we needed a comprehensive and effective upgrade," explains Erik Jensen, senior director of brand engagement.

Denny's launched with Yext's PowerListings product to gain full control of its presence on local listing sites, and it added Yext's Pages product soon after for increased optimization of local mobile web pages and campaigns. Yext provides comprehensive coverage and real-time control for its franchised location listings and with the robust PowerListings Network that offers proprietary integrations with over 100 map, app, search engine, and social media partners, including Apple, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Yahoo and Yelp. "Yext enhanced our local search in terms of breadth and depth for our digital presence," Jensen says. With Yext's platform, Denny's can immediately update listings for one location or one thousand locations from a comprehensive dashboard display.

Empowering Local Franchises with a Customized Platform
The unique flexibility and deep customization of access controls that the Yext platform provides, as well as extensive consultative services offered by its Yext account team, greatly appealed to Denny's corporate marketing team. With 273 franchisees, which make up the majority of their 1,700 locations, Dillon and his team consider local franchise empowerment to be a key aspect of its strategy to improve engagement and strengthen relationships with local diners.

"90-92% of our system is franchised, so locally relevant and locally owned is important to us. Having a unique presence with local communities is a critical part of the Denny's brand," explains Jensen. "We wanted to enable our franchisees to update their own local web pages and local social channels, particularly on Facebook, and actually reach out to their specific customers, which we just can't do at a national level."

The Yext account team customized Denny's instance of the platform to meet the restaurant chain's unique local marketing needs. Specifically, the team embedded Yext's platform into Denny's existing franchisee portal system and developed customized access levels. "We wanted both to allow deep customization of each local Page and also to ensure that franchisees could easily access their Yext Pages," recalls Jensen. "Yext helped us accomplish this by tying its platform into a system we already have, which means that our franchisees actually access Yext Pages and Yext Facebook listings through our own internal portal. From there, franchisees have different levels of access within this portal depending on their role in the organization."

By taking advantage of advanced customization capabilities of Yext's technology and embedding those into its existing system, Dillon and his team are able to retain control of the corporate brand and messaging, while still giving franchisees the freedom to localize their own digital presence and thereby enhance local customer engagement.

Repositioning a 63 Year Old Restaurant Brand with Tailored Technology Prowess
Beyond the basics of match-and-lock compilation technology for accurate listings, Yext's analytics and reporting mean that Dillon and his team can now quantify the previously unquantifiable. They can measure the impact Yext has had on Denny's digital engagement. For example, analytics show that Denny's local Pages experienced a 35% increase in search traffic in less than a year since launching with Yext.
Yext's team is currently working on an API integration to simplify the process of adding and subtracting store location information from within Denny's own system, and it has begun working with Denny's agency to ensure the agency integrates promotional messaging into its own listings.

Looking ahead, Dillon and his team recognize that physical location is the ultimate context and are keen to explore ways to use Xone, Yext's new beacon-enabled mobile audience engagement product. "Location matters because people have to walk through brick-and-mortar doors in order to experience our brand—we are not an online vendor. The purpose of our digital presence is to drive diners into our actual restaurant locations time and again, and that is where Yext's product is invaluable," concludes Dillon.


*Source: Yext, The Food Service Guide to Digital Presence Management, 2015.