Denny's takes race critics to court over false claims

SPARTANBURG, SC: Denny's, the restaurant chain long-haunted by its reputation as an enclave for racial insensitivity, has hit back at its critics by taking legal action against the latest in a slew of harmful, fabricated lawsuits.

SPARTANBURG, SC: Denny's, the restaurant chain long-haunted by its reputation as an enclave for racial insensitivity, has hit back at its critics by taking legal action against the latest in a slew of harmful, fabricated lawsuits.

SPARTANBURG, SC: Denny's, the restaurant chain long-haunted by its reputation as an enclave for racial insensitivity, has hit back at its critics by taking legal action against the latest in a slew of harmful, fabricated lawsuits.

Advantica, the SC-based holding company that owns or franchises all 2,660 Denny's restaurants, filed a countersuit against an African-American Miami couple who claimed they were made to wait 45 minutes for a table while white customers were seated.

However, a security tape showed otherwise. The couple had been promptly shown to a table, only to leave 10 minutes later.

Upon seeing the tape, the couple hastily dropped their lawsuit and Advantica is now suing to recover costs and attorney's fees.

The Miami case is just the latest in a rash of lawsuits - of which dozens have been filed since the early '90s - that were frequently found by the courts to be little more than attempts to capitalize on the restaurant's unfortunate image.

The chain has been battling a reputation for racial insensitivity since 1994, when it paid dollars 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.

Millions of dollars and man-hours have been devoted to the company's recovery. In addition to increasing minority presence on its board and requiring all employees to take racial sensitivity classes, CEO Jim Adamson published a book earlier this year, The Denny's Story: How a Company in Crisis Resurrected its Good Name and Reputation.

Said Karen Randall, Denny's VP communications: 'Everywhere that we can, we have been countersuing. When these cases have no merit, we fight aggressively.'

Despite the continued filing of similar lawsuits - the latest brought by a Virginia woman in May - there are indications that Denny's efforts have yielded a change in perception. Fortune magazine this year named Advantica 'America's Best Company for Minorities,' citing its 'nearly miraculous turnaround'.

Advantica regularly uses Walls Communication, a minority-owned PR agency, as well as Chisholm-Mingo and Citigate Communications for project work.



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