Denny's made a big impression in the zeitgeist about a year ago with its unapologetic Baconalia menu and promotion, offering every manner of recipe made with those glistening gobs of animal fat, seemingly heedless of the forces of better-for-you swirling around the chain.
Things are different this year. The South Carolina-based quick-serve brand expanded its Fit Fare menu in the middle of last year, emphasizing tasty better-for-you options, and hasn't looked back.
"Denny's is looked at as an indulgence restaurant," John Dillon, Denny's vice president of marketing and product development, told brandchannel. "We want to be able to maintain and strengthen that but also be able to balance that with the [expansion] of Fit Fare."
Customer response has been strong, he said, to the core proposition of the new Fit Fare: an expansion of how Denny's approaches the definition of better-for-you. It's no longer just about reducing calories, sugar or sodium but also about offering "positive nutrition" options such as those loaded with fiber or protein.
So the special menu's items are classified as Fit Fare Light, which means under 550 calories; Fit Fare Lean, under 15g of fat; Fit Fare Fiber, meaning they include more than 8g of fiber; and Fit Fare Protein, with more than 20g of protein. There's some flexible interchange among the items as well. Favorite Fit Fare includes the chicken avocado sandwich and cranberry-apple chicken salad.
"We did a lot of work with our guests, and they told us that 'fit' doesn't always mean to them the absence of something; it could mean they want more of something," Dillon said. "We're first in the industry to capitalze on or emphasize four different key elements of a nutritional menu."
The piece de la resistance for Fit Fare fans may be the Fit Slam, a derivation of Denny's famous Grand Slam, which includes egg whites scrambled with fresh spinach and grape tomatoes, two turkey bacon strips, an English muffin and fruit. "It's a beautiful plate, and we doubled [in sales] our expectations from an incidence standpoint," Dillon said.
Moreover, he said, Denny's customers in pursuit of Fit Fare seem willing to pay the up charges that come with certain nutritious options such as yogurt.
This doesn't mean, however, that bacon dishes won't make a glorious return to Denny's at some point. To many Denny's customers, "feast" is as important a word as "fit."