Denny’s is reprising its popular Baconalia menu starting Tuesday, with new dishes featuring bacon and a comprehensive marketing push.
When Baconalia first launched in March 2011 , items like the Bacon Maple Sundae drove social media buzz, and ultimately sales and traffic, said John Dillon, Denny’s Corp. vice president of brand marketing and product innovation.
Denny's Baconalia commercial 
“We knew pretty soon after Baconalia that we wanted to come back to it, but the key was when,” Dillon said. “At the time, we had other ideas in the pipeline for the next year or two. So a two-year gap was about right for us.”
In the second quarter of 2011, when most of Baconalia ran, Denny’s same-store guest counts rose 1.4 percent at company-owned restaurants, contributing to a 2-percent systemwide same-store sales increase.
For Baconalia 2.0, making key upgrades to both the products and media will be crucial to its success, Dillon said. “From a product standpoint, it means bringing back the favorites while upping the ante,” he noted. “Clearly, the winner last time was the Maple Bacon Sundae, so we’re bringing it back, but now we have three bacon desserts.”
Two new desserts are the Maple Bacon Milk Shake and the Salted Caramel Brownie Sundae with Bacon. New entrees include BBQ Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese Bites, Caramel Bacon Stuffed French Toast and the Ultimate BLT. Also at breakfast are the Pepper Bacon Avocado Omelette, Pepper Bacon and Eggs, and the Ultimate Bacon Breakfast.
A Spicy Pepper Bacon Jack Burger and Bacon Pepper Jack Tilapia are available at lunch, dinner and late-night.
As with Baconalia 1.0, television commercials and several digital marketing initiatives meant to generate online buzz will promote the menu.
Denny’s has partnered with comedy duo Rhett & Link and humor website FailBlog to produce content for a special Baconalia Hub . Music videos starring Rhett & Link, as well as photo memes and fake e-cards, all show people having “epic fail” moments, with the tagline “Bacon makes it better.” The chain also is selling a commemorative Baconalia plate for $24.95 on the hub, with a mock infomercial that touts it as a collector’s item.
Dillon said developing branded-entertainment content intends to bring about a balance of earned media, along with the sales and traffic expected as the return on its investment in traditional broadcast media. In 2011, the first Baconalia menu not only earned mentions on dozens of blogs and news websites; it also made its way into an episode of “South Park” on Comedy Central.
“We’ll do a significant media push against this with a couple of dedicated commercials, but really a lot of the stickiness of Baconalia the first time was in other forms of media, so we want to continue that success this time,” Dillon said. “That’s why we’re working with Failblog and Rhett & Link, as well as selling the special Baconalia plate. … It all creates affinity with our brand, which does lead to increased traffic and sales.”
Denny’s expects its digital-marketing efforts to appeal to more than its Millennial customer group, Dillon added. The chain tried to seed some social buzz by hosting several bloggers whose sites are devoted to bacon at Denny’s headquarters, previewing the menu and letting them sample it.
“Those blogs are relevant in the marketplace and can make our products relevant,” he said. “It’s about being in touch with your guest at the right place and the right time, both when they’re hungry and when they’re not. … When they get hungry, we’ll be at the top of their consideration set.”
Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s operates and franchises more than 1,680 family-dining restaurants in the United States and nine foreign markets.
Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected] .
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