Leadership

Denny's hires Brinker CIO Pankaj Patra as chief digital and technology officer

Patra will assume the newly created position after spending 15 years at Brinker.
Denny's
Denny's wants to beef up its tech strategy. | Photo: Shutterstock

Denny’s has hired Pankaj Patra to the newly created position of chief digital and technology officer.

Patra will join the 1,591-unit diner chain from Chili’s parent Brinker International, where he worked for about 15 years, most recently as SVP and CIO.

He’ll be responsible for growing digital capabilities at Denny’s and its recently acquired sister concept, the 55-unit Keke’s Breakfast Cafe.

“Our restaurant teams and our guests rely on technology to enable a seamless experience, which makes the work that our IT team does absolutely critical,” said Denny’s CEO Kelli Valade in a statement. “We are excited to add Pankaj to the team to help us build on the solid foundation already in place, while leading us in identifying new, relevant and innovative solutions to serve our guests, employees and franchisees in the future.”

Patra will start Oct. 30 and will be based in Dallas. His hiring will result in the departure of Denny’s EVP and CIO Michael Furlow, who will stay on through the end of the year to help with the transition, according to a press release.

“Denny’s is an iconic restaurant company that understands and values the connection between great people and smart technology,” Patra said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working collaboratively across the company to identify opportunities for improvement and implement exciting, innovative, transformative solutions.”

The hire underscores the growing importance of IT in the restaurant industry. Many executives at the recent FSTEC conference talked about how the tech department is playing an increasingly important role across their business. 

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