Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Denny's (Gateway Blvd)


A while ago when Denny's was promoting the launch of their new loyalty program, I was fortunate enough to be sent a media kit with a $25 gift card. The gift card came along with an invitation to the official launch party at the Vancouver Broadway location where complimentary Grand Slams would be served. Unfortunately I couldn't make it to the event, but I did enjoy the other little gadgets in the media kit. Denny's was pretty creative with what little budget they had and packed up a squishy coffee cup toy, a burger USB, a set of cutlery and some yellow paper fries to simulate a take-out meal in a black plastic Denny's take-out box.


I had actually never been to a Denny's before this visit. Surprising I know, but I'd just never had the opportunity. I'm not big on Western style breakfast and the few times I decided to go for it, I always stuck with IHOP, though I tried Cora on one occasion. So when I walked in at noon on Sunday, I was surprised to see a swarm of people crowding the entrance. I turned to an older lady beside me and asked if there was a special event going on, to which she replied, "Oh no! It's always like this on weekends because Denny's is one of the only places that serve breakfast all day." I felt a bit stupid :(
But anyway I put down my name and was informed by the hostess that it would be a 15 minute wait. Even though there were a lot of people in line, the turnover was pretty quick.


As I was waiting, I noticed these fancy balloon creations scattered around the restaurant. I think the one shown below is supposed to be a palm tree, but I don't know why there's blue, orange and yellow stuff hanging from it. Any thoughts?


I looked around and saw a lady whipping up fancy balloon hats and bracelets for customers. Unfortunately she didn't come around to our table, but I think it's great that Denny's offers this little extra something. The kids sure loved it! And I think a lot of ladies got excited too. I saw several of them walk around with these crazy hats and bracelets on.


Even though this was my first time at Denny's, I've heard my fair share of horror stories regarding this chain. I've been told by a coworker that he only eats Denny's when he's drunk. Not exactly a glowing review. So I was expecting the worst, but was pleasantly surprised when I received the best service I've ever received at a casual fast food chain. Immediately after being seated, two servers came by consecutively to ask about drinks. The lady who brought us our hot water even asked if we wanted lemon slices. I also ordered a strawberry banana bliss smoothie ($4.39), advertised to be made with real fruit and yogurt. It tasted alright, but it was more of a slushy because I could feel the crunchy chunks of ice in each gulp.


A server stopped by two times to take our order, but both times we weren't ready and she patiently told us to take our time. We didn't feel rushed in the slightest bit. After 20 minutes of menu browsing, I was still torn between the banana pecan pancake breakfast ($8.99) and the blueberry pancake breakfast ($8.59). I liked the sides in the blueberry pancake breakfast, but I wanted banana pecan pancakes, so I asked if I could get a substitution. And the answer was, "Yes I can do that for you! It will be an extra charge though, is that ok?" Great! I love restaurants that allow substitutions so that customers can get exactly what they want. I also substituted a slice of grilled ham for the bacon. I was charged $0.65 for the pecans in the pancake and $1.59 for the ham. Pretty reasonable I think. The slice of ham was rather thick and I enjoyed it with the two over-easy eggs. The hash brown was similar to IHOP's, but in this case it was not cooked very nicely as the potato shreds on the outside were over-browned while the ones in the middle were limp and colourless.


The banana pecan pancakes did not disappoint. Crunchy glazed pecans were embedded in the fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Nutty pancakes paired with fresh banana slices and syrup! Yum!


I also took a bite of Denny's moons over my hammy ($10.39), a ham and scrambled egg sandwich with gooey melted cheese on grilled sourdough bread. I quite liked the texture and flavour of the sourdough as it was very nicely toasted. The ingredients in the filling also went together well.


Overall I had an excellent experience at Denny's. I was quite surprised, because I was anticipating a horrible meal with bad food and spotty service. I'm glad I gave Denny's a try and in fact, I think I will come here instead of IHOP from now on because of the huge variety of breakfast choices.

As for Denny's new mobile app "MyDenny's", there are still a lot of bugs that need to be worked out. I've only played around with it for a bit and I've already discovered a couple of big issues.
1. The app engages my GPS and does not turn it off even after I close the app, and that drains a lot of battery. I have to clear all of my recent app history before GPS deactivates.
2. In order to check in and collect a virtual "stamp", I need to enter the invoice number on my receipt. The number on my receipt is 0196a-1, but there are no letters or dash symbol in the pop-up keyboard! I tried 0196 and 01961 but both numbers didn't work. Then I went to my text messaging and typed 0196a-1 and copy-pasted into the app (the 'a' didn't paste, so it was 0196-1) and it finally worked. Not very user-friendly.
A few other issues:
1. There are 3 tiers of membership (bronze, silver, gold), but it is not clear as to what the benefits of each tier are. It is also not clear as to what rewards there are for checking in and collecting "stamps".
2. The menu in the app just shows dish names under a Denny's logo. I was expecting pictures of the food and also an option to click in to view detailed descriptions and nutritional information.
3. I looked into the rewards section and found that Denny's only offers a $5 discount for every $200 spent. Honestly a 2.5% discount after spending $200 is NOT a good incentive and will not encourage customer loyalty. Hopefully Denny's will review this program and offer better rewards in the future.

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