Denny's continues image boost with $1m fund drive

SPARTANBURG, SC: Denny's restaurant chain, long suffering from a

reputation as a haven for racial insensitivity, kicked off a nationwide

promotion last week called "Reigniting the Dream." The goal is to

publicly raise $1 million for the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis,


Pulled off with help from Washington, DC-based Walls Communications, the

campaign has participating Denny's donating 20 cents to the museum from

the sale of every All American Grand Slam entree. Patrons will also be

encouraged to donate individually at the restaurants.

Celebrity endorsements, in-store materials, and a radio media tour are

currently being planned. Celebrity participants include actor Danny

Glover, NAACP chairman Julian Bond, and gospel singer Fred Hammond. A

radio broadcast featuring Denny's chief diversity officer and the

museum's executive director is scheduled for January 21. A formal launch

took place on January 10 at the museum itself, built on the site where

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.

Advantica, the holding company that owns or franchises all 2,660 Denny's

restaurants, has been battling the chain's racist image for nearly a


In 1994, the company paid $54 million to settle two class-action

lawsuits - one involving six African-American Secret Service agents who

were mistreated at a Denny's in Annapolis, MD.

There is much evidence those efforts are paying off. 2001 was the second

year in a row that Denny's was named number-one in Fortune magazine's

"America's 50 Best Companies for Minorities" survey.

Nonetheless, Bob Ellison, a Walls Communications VP, suggested that more

work needs to be done to get the word out. "Denny's has changed

significantly, but many people are unaware of that change," he said.

"This Denny's is committed to diversity, respecting all people, and

supporting efforts that promote understanding and diversity."

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