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Denny's revamps a breakfast staple

dennys pancakes

Denny’s is replacing its pancakes with a new version touted as being 50% fluffier, slightly sweeter and closer to what customers are accustomed to having at home.

The revised version will be featured in the brand’s signature Grand Slam breakfasts. The switch will raise the prices of selections incorporating the new pancakes, but the increase is “negligible,” said CMO John Dillon.

The new buttermilk pancakes feature fresh buttermilk, eggs and a touch of vanilla, all of which were omitted from the old version of the breakfast staple, according to executives, who revealed the new prep this morning at a Denny’s in New York City.

The inclusion of buttermilk and eggs raises the calorie count to about 450 for two pancakes, compared with a level of 375 for the prior version, according to Denny’s. However, the sweetness from the vanilla may prompt customers to use less syrup, said Sharon Lykins, senior director of product development for the chain.

“We really wanted to vamp up the flavor,” Lykins said. “We’re adding fresh buttermilk to the pancake in the kitchens. That gives you that nice creamy texture. You also get that nice richness that the buttermilk solids give you. It gives you that nice silky mouth feel.”

To keep the added steps from complicating back-of-the-house operations, the chain plans to preportion the ingredients. Lykins estimated the mix time at about 10 seconds.

Cooks have been armed with spatulas that double as measuring sticks to ensure that every pancake is six inches in diameter, Lykins added.

The pancakes will be introduced via a multifaceted marketing blitz, said Dillon.

“Given how big of a launch this is for us, for the first time in several years we’ll have a series of 30 second national [TV] spots,” he said. “We’ll also have a series of spots in Spanish.”

Digital media will also be a part of the push, he added, noting that Denny’s has invested heavily in nontraditional marketing in recent years. He declined to quantify that investment.

Among the digital efforts will be the giveaway later this summer of what the chain is calling a pancake pro fork, a utensil with longer tines to handle the fluffier pancakes. The fork is “optimized” to handle the new recipe, according to a YouTube video. The video invites consumers to visit TheGrandSlams.com to request a fork for themselves, executives explained.

The new pancakes were undertaken as part of what Dillon characterized as a sweeping overhaul of the family chain’s menu. “We have changed over 50% of our menu in the last three years alone,” he said at this morning’s event. “We’ve added products like wild-caught Atlantic salmon. All of this has led to a business performance turnaround. But there is more to do.”

Research showed that consumers were satisfied with Denny’s pancakes, but the brand wanted to improve the breakfast staple. Some surveys revealed that 44% of consumers regard pancakes cooked outside of the restaurant business as the best they’ve had.

Much of the marketing materials play off Denny’s assertions that the new pancakes are superior to what mom, dad or grandma make at home. For instance, Denny’s website is featuring what Dillon described as a “pancake rejection simulator” to help at-home chefs deal with the letdown of being bested at the griddle.

Dillon noted that other product tweaks are in the works, but declined to reveal details. However, he noted that one slated for August "will make kids very, very happy."

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