For about a year now, Denny's has been succeeding where just about every other chain restaurant has failed: making itself look cool to the group of people least likely to believe it.
The home of the Grand Slam Breakfast and the tagline "Open, Honest, and Friendly Since 1953," Denny's is better known as a destination for geriatric penny pinchers and high school stoners than as a bastion of cool for the 18-to-25 crowd. But as the New York Times reports, the company has been changing that perception with a Web series that launched a second season in March.
Called "Always Open," it's produced by Denny's and DumbDumb (a production company owned by Arrested Development's Will Arnett and Jason Bateman) and shown on the website CollegeHumor, where it's racked up more than six million views. Each episode features comedian David Koechner sitting in a booth at a Denny's on Sunset Boulevard, interviewing celebrities like Sarah Silverman, Maya Rudolph, and Andy Richter. In the latest video (pictured above), Koechner interviews Jessica Biel about the possibility of things turning "romantic" in the event they're ever stuck in a tent on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
The videos don't include any overt pitches for Denny's, or really much in the way of product placement. And that, along with their online home, helps to explain their success. Unlike, say, the way Burger King uses oppressively sexist advertising to appeal to dudes, or the way Olive Garden can't stop trying to convince everyone of its quality and authenticity through glistening shots of mammoth bowls of pasta, Denny's isn't trying too hard to win anybody over. Instead, it follows the strategy known to anyone who's ever tried to get a second date, much less laid: Pretend you don't really care. Make seduction (or selling) incidental. In other words, as Elmore Leonard might say, be cool.
With any luck, Denny's will inspire other food companies to take a similar approach, which could have the cumulative effect of making consumers feel less like tools for buying their products. Companies will always see target demos as little more than mouths attached to wallets, no matter how light-handed the pitch. Props to Denny's for understanding that a little effort to pretend otherwise goes a long way.
Image source: CollegeHumor.com