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The Den: Denny’s new casual cafe

Jun 9, 2015

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“America’s Diner” is poised to give patrons in downtown Spartanburg a new dining experience. Spartanburg-based Denny’s Corp. says it will open a version of its casual café concept The Den to the public.

The Den is located on the ground floor of the company’s 17-story headquarters building off East Main Street. It began serving Denny’s 250 corporate employees on Monday. It will open to the public in a few weeks.

“This is something we have wanted to do for a while,” said Greg Powell, vice president of concept innovation for Denny’s. “The lease on our Test Kitchen across the street was almost up. We thought, ‘Hey, what if we go ahead and bring it all under one roof?’ The timing was right. That’s really what provided the impetus for this.”

Powell said the company has 14 The Den stores across the country, including a dozen college campus locations and two on U.S. military bases.

The 90-seat downtown store features a non-traditional menu, and it includes the company’s test kitchen and innovation center, where chefs and franchisees from all over the world come to train.

Powell said that Denny’s has made a “significant” investment in transforming what was formerly BB&T’s bank lobby into a contemporary culinary destination.

The company demolished a wall separating the previously unused lobby from its welcome desk. A large safe was removed.

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Marble wall and floor tiles were replaced with chic recycled wood coverings. The décor includes a fashionable range of industrial-style fixtures, pieces of art and comfy seating. “We wanted it to have a very organic feel,” Powell said.

The space is also packed with new technologies. A moveable glass wall was installed in front of the test kitchen to allow the company to open the back portion of the café as a viewing area for large groups of trainees. Activity in the kitchen can be captured on video and viewed by the audience on screens.

A state-of-the-art ventilation system was installed. It includes a scrubber that cleans air captured by several stove hoods before the air is vented outside.

The Den has a conference room and a quality assurance lab as well.

Powell said the eatery is currently open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Only two of Denny’s classic dishes are on the menu: the Original Grand Slam and the Grand Slamwich.

Those dishes comprise part of a “Breakfast All Day” offering that is rounded out by a few brioche breakfast melts.

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The menu has an assortment of “Hand Smashed” burgers, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, salads and sides, as well as old-fashioned milkshakes in chocolate, vanilla, Oreo and maple bacon flavors.

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“We like to say this is ‘not your dad’s diner,'” Powell said. “It’s a different vibe, a different demographic, a different space. … We’re excited to do this in Spartanburg.”

Denny’s corporate office moved to downtown in 1990, when its parent-company at the time, TW Services, relocated from California. The move was led by the company’s chief executive Jerry Richardson, a Wofford alumnus and owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

TW Services later became Flagstar, and Flagstar later became Advantica Restaurant Group Inc. In 2002, Advantica became Denny’s Corp. after selling its Coco’s and Carrow’s chains.

Today, Denny’s has 1,700 restaurants in the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, Guam, Curaçao, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and New Zealand.

“The Denny’s brand is far reaching across the globe,” said Patty Bock, economic development director for the city of Spartanburg. “They employ hundreds and bring in thousands of business partners downtown regularly. We’re fortunate. Denny’s is a strong corporate citizen who continues to give to this community in so many ways.

“They have made a significant investment in relocating and expanding the Denny’s Test Kitchen. … With the culinary creativity in the test kitchens and now The Den soon opening to the public, people have one more dining option. We’re excited about the increase in pedestrian activity and economic impact this will bring, especially north of Church Street.”

By Trevor Anderson

For more information about Denny’s, please visit: Denny’s

Related Post: Denny’s Puts a Sweet and Spicy Twist on Diner Favorites

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