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Several senior execs out at Denny's

SPARTANBURG S.C. Denny’s Corp. has let go of its chief marketing and innovation officer, Mark Chmiel, chief operating officer, Janis Emplit, and senior director of product innovation, Andy Dismore. Replacements have yet to be named.

Acompany official confirmed Friday that the executives were no longer working at Denny’s as of Thursday. Sources familiar with the matter said that, officially, Emplit has resigned her post and the others have left to pursue other interests. The marketing and research and development teams were further pared down with the elimination of additional executives, sources said, although a number was not given.

Late Friday, Denny's released a statement that said it has launched a nationwide search to fill the positions of Chmiel and Emplit, whose full titles are executive vice president and chief marketing and innovation officer and executive vice president and chief operating officer, respectively. Denny's made no mention of Dismore.    

“While we have been making a number of meaningful improvements to our business including enhancing our profitability, reducing our debt and opening new stores, our comp store sales have been a challenge," Nelson Marchioli, president and chief executive officer of Denny’s, stated. "As the external operating environment remains difficult and the industry increasingly competitive, it is necessary to ensure we have the leadership that can drive sales and the brand forward as it progresses in its transition to a primarily franchise-focused business model.”

Denny’s, parent company to more than 1,500 family-dining restaurants, has suffered from slow sales trends all year despite significant marketing and menu efforts, including one of the industry’s largest free offers, the Grand Slam Giveaway. The chain also has revamped its menu with a late-night menu and, more recently, a “better burger” line. The company also has said it is exploring the addition of premium coffee drinks.

The sluggish economy has kept consumers away from many restaurant chains, and traffic for the entire industry has been negative. For its third quarter, Denny’s profit fell 6 percent from a year ago and revenue declined 23 percent. Same-store sales fell 6.6 percent at corporate restaurants and 7.3 percent at franchised locations.

Still on Denny’s website Friday, Chmiel was touted for his recent marketing efforts. The site says, “He is the architect of the recent Free Grand Slam Giveaway during the Super Bowl. This highly successful, integrated event activated more than 49 million visits to the Denny’s website, gave 2 million people Free Grand Slams, and received approximately $50 million in PR exposure.”

Dismore was the leader behind such efforts as Denny’s late-night rock-star inspired menu, which included the Plain White Shake, a vanilla ice cream shake developed with the Plain White T’s. That menu item won a MenuMasters Award earlier this year.

Contact Sarah E. Lockyer at [email protected].

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