Denny’s announced on its Q2 earnings call this week that average weekly sales for off-premises orders have almost doubled since the start of the pandemic, from $4,000/week in February to $7,900/week in July.
Like other restaurants that have historically been known for their in-dining room experiences, Denny’s found itself having to quickly pivot when the pandemic hit. Speaking on the call, John C. Miller, CEO of the Spartanburg, S.C.-based chain, outlined the ways in which his company has adapted to the changes.
Those efforts included continued focus on Denny’s long-established Denny’s on Demand platform, which allows guests to place online orders for pickup and delivery. (The chain’s menu is available through most of the major third-party delivery services.) Like others, it also added curbside pickup and, once stay-at-home restrictions began to loosen, converted areas of its parking lots and sidewalks into outdoor seating.
The reinvention of the restaurant menu is another common theme to emerge from this pandemic. And by reinvention, I mean pared down selections that allow kitchens to work more efficiently. Denny’s was no exception here, having streamlined its own menu to focus on its most popular items, and offering family-style bundles, as well.
If Denny’s story of off-premises orders saving the day sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the state of most major restaurant chains the U.S. right now. McDonald’s said it made 50 operating changes to get “pandemic ready,” many of them around digital ordering and off-premises orders. Starbucks, which saw one of its toughest quarters so far, is completely overhauling some traditional sit-down locations and turning them into to-go-centric stores.
Denny’s itself has permanently closed some of its sit-down locations due to “unforeseeable business circumstances prompted by COVID-19.”
“This quarter has proven to be one of the most difficult quarters this country and especially the full-service restaurant industry has ever seen,” Miller said on the call. And there’s no telling what Q3 will look like, since the state of the restaurant industry changes practically every day and full recovery is dependent in part on the trajectory of the pandemic.