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Who doesn’t love to stop by Denny’s for a plate of pancakes or Moons Over My Hammy?
As Tim Allen’s character declared in the 1994 film The Santa Clause, Denny’s is an “American institution.” It’s known in every state, and the company has even gone international in recent years. It’s a favorite late-night and breakfast spot for many, with a majority of its locations being open on a 24-basis.
How much do you know about Denny’s? More importantly, did you know that you can join their rewards program and get a free meal on your birthday?
Keep reading to get clued in.
What Is Denny’s?
Just in case you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting a Denny’s restaurant, it’s valuable to know that Denny’s is a chain operating diner-style eateries. Warm and casual, Denny’s is a familiar stop on many road trips.
The majority of the chain’s locations are conveniently placed close to freeway exits, hotels and bars. This makes them a favorite with people who are traveling or just need a place to relax and unwind with a good cup of coffee. Plus, because most locations are open 24-hours a day, Denny’s is always ready to serve that hot cup of coffee and a meal.
Regular customers appreciate that no matter where they travel, Denny’s will always be comforting and familiar. The menu is virtually the same in every location in the United States, which means that you can always find your favorite dish.
Currently, there are more than 1,700 Denny’s restaurants operating around the world.
A Brief History of Denny’s
When Harold Butler and Richard Jezak decided to open a donut stand in 1953, they didn’t call it Denny’s. In fact, the simple storefront was known as Danny’s Donuts. According to a promise made by Butler at the time, the restaurant’s main goal was “To serve the best cup of coffee, make the best donuts, give the best service, offer the best value and stay open 24 hours a day.”
That first location was in Lakewood, California. Within three years, Danny’s Donuts had become a six-store chain. Richard Jezak departed the company in 1956, at which time Harold Butler changed the chain’s concept from a donut shop to a coffee shop when he opened the eighth location. Danny’s Donuts was now Danny’s Coffee Shop.
Also in the 1950s, a Los Angeles architecture firm designed a prototype building with a now-familiar boomerang-shaped roof. That prototype would be copied in thousands of restaurants across the country. The same architects also came up with a shingled, zigzag roof in 1965, creating the basis for the spread of googie architecture across the U.S. as more Denny’s opened in the following years.
Unfortunately, Danny’s Coffee Shop ran into some confusion in 1959. An LA restaurant called Coffee Dan’s was too frequently being confused with the entirely separate Danny’s Coffee Shop. Harold Butler felt that it was time for a change. By switching the “a” in Danny’s with an “e,” Denny’s Coffee Shops were born.
By 1961, the chain’s name had been shortened to simply “Denny’s,” and it was under this name that the brand expanded to all 50 states with more than 1,000 restaurants by 1981. The first international location was opened in Acapulco, Mexico in 1967, and in the following year the company began being traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
Franchising opportunities began being offered in 1963. Today, most locations are owned by franchisees. According to their agreements with the corporate headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the majority of these locations must be open on a 24-hours a day basis.
Famously, these restaurants do not even close for holidays. An experiment was tried in 1988 in which all but six Denny’s restaurants were closed on Christmas day. What headquarters had not anticipated was that many restaurants had been built without locking doors, and employees at locations that had locks could not always locate the keys.
Other highlights in the company’s history include the 1977 introduction of The Grand Slam. Named for famed baseball player Hank Aaron, the menu item was first offered in Atlanta. It can still be ordered today and consists of two buttermilk pancakes, two eggs served in any style you like, two sausage links and two beef bacon strips.
As you travel the country, you may notice Denny’s Diner locations too. Meant to recall the classic diners of the 1950s, a Denny’s Diner brings you the same menu but surrounds you in retro décor.
Denny’s began offering free meals to people on their birthdays in 1990. The celebrant was offered a special birthday menu consisting of limited options. Unfortunately, the company found that too many people were visiting Denny’s more than once on their birthday. This led management to declare that people who claimed a free birthday meal had to prove that it was their birthday, and they were only allowed one meal.
Denny’s Rewards and Birthday Meals Today
Denny’s Rewards is a relatively new program for which anyone can sign up. All you have to do is visit the Dennys.com/rewards website. If you aren’t already a member, click on the button that says “Sign Up.”
You have the option to sign up with Facebook or Apple. Alternatively, you can enter your information directly at the Denny’s website. Provide your first and last name, email address and a password. Optionally, you can add your mobile phone number.
After reading and accepting the terms and conditions, it’s necessary to decide whether or not to enable push notifications and Denny’s Text Rewards. Make your selections by clicking the appropriate boxes, and then click “Continue.”
A new dialog box will pop up which will ask you to complete your profile. This involves entering your birthday and choosing your favorite Denny’s location. With this information complete, you’re ready to proceed.
The website immediately takes you to a page from which you can schedule a pickup or delivery order from a variety of nearby locations.
If you have opted in for text messages, you can expect an immediate message. You have the option of replying to the text with “STOP” if you’ve decided that Denny’s text messages aren’t for you. Alternatively, you can reply with “START” if you’re OK with receiving up to three messages per week.
What kinds of rewards does the program offer? You’ll get exclusive deals sent straight to your phone or email inbox. In fact, you’ll see an email from Denny’s within moments of signing up for Denny’s Rewards. The initial email is just a welcome message, and it lets you know that you’ll receive your first discount offer within 24 hours. Usually, the deals offer you a percentage off or a similar discount. The typical first offer is a 20-percent off coupon for your next visit.
In addition to the other deals that you will receive throughout the year, you will get a special surprise on your birthday. Gone are the days when you could order a meal from a special birthday menu. Now, you get a free Grand Slam breakfast. In most cases, this offer is only good on the day of your birthday, so don’t confuse it with the birthday gift at other restaurants where you might have an entire week to claim your reward. In other cases, some Denny’s restaurants have accepted these coupons at any time during the birthday month. It’s always a good idea to call and check with your Denny’s location to see if your coupon will be honored there.
Generally, these free Grand Slam breakfast for your birthday offers are received at the email address that you used to sign up for your Rewards account. Some Denny’s locations may not participate, so it could be wise to call up locations in advance to make sure that they will honor your birthday coupon.
In 2021, Denny’s began requiring that the birthday person show a coupon in order to receive their birthday breakfast. This is a change over the accepted practice prior to that year, when it was only necessary to present a valid picture ID to receive the free meal.
The Denny’s App and Other Discounts
If you want to be a regular Denny’s customer and take full advantage of all available discounts, you also may want to download the Denny’s app. Available on iOS and Android, the app will send you push notifications for offers and promotions. You can log in to your Denny’s Rewards account on the app so that all of your potential discounts and rewards are at your fingertips.
If you select the “Rewards” tab on the app, you’ll see any currently valid deals. These could include promos like a free child’s meal with the purchase of an adult entrée, 10-percent off an order, 20-percent off dinner between four and ten in the evening, three dollars off of a $20 purchase and others.
The app also makes it easy to view your recent and favorite orders if you want to quickly set up a pickup or delivery order.
Tapping on the upper left-hand side of the app screen brings up a menu where you can browse the Denny’s menu, find locations, look at reward details, update your profile and perform other maintenance tasks. This also is where you can switch to the Spanish-language version of the app or log out.
Even if you choose not to download the app or become a member of Denny’s Rewards, you can still get some deals. For instance, many locations offer a deal in which kids get to eat free with an adult entrée purchase that costs six dollars or more. No all locations participate, and restrictions may be in place. Be sure to ask before ordering if a kids eat free deal is ongoing at your location.
Additionally, AARP members receive a 15-percent off discount on their entire check when they eat at Denny’s. Once again, this offer is only good at participating locations, and it cannot be combined with other discounts and promotions.
Denny’s: An American Institution
Whether Denny’s has long been a favorite with your family or not, there is no denying that it is an indelible part of the American experience. While it doesn’t serve gourmet fare, Denny’s meals are pretty nearly always hot, filling and tasty. These restaurants operate with a level of predictability that makes them a familiar and comforting rest stop on the road of life.
The good news is that Denny’s offers its customers plenty of options for enjoying discounted and even free meals. Joining the Denny’s Rewards program is quick, easy and free. No purchase is necessary, and your membership will entitle you to a free Grand Slam breakfast meal for your birthday. Combined with various other discounts and promotions throughout the year, your Denny’s Rewards membership is a bargain.