Skip navigation
Denny's Corp. in April will launch a series of mental health and wellness summits that are free and available virtually.

Denny’s launches mental health and wellness summits

The program is free and available virtually, with first keynote April 22 by Dr. Daniel Dawes

Denny's Corp. will be kicking off in April a series of summits focused on how companies and individuals can manage and improve mental health and wellness.

The Spartanburg, S.C.-based restaurant company, which owns and franchises the family-dining Denny’s and the daytime Keke’s Breakfast Café, launches April 22 and will be free. Attendees can participate in person or virtually. Registration is open through Eventbrite.

“There's no better time than now to focus on our well-being and bringing your most authentic self to the workplace,” said Kelli Valade, Denny's CEO, in a statement. “These summits will bring together our employees, educators, researchers and other experts to hear and learn about mental health resources."

The first summit will be 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT on April 22 at the HPAC Theater at the University of South Carolina-Upstate in Spartanburg.

The summit keynote speaker will be Dr. Daniel Dawes, senior vice president for global health and executive director of the Institute of Global Health Equity at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. In addition, Dawes is a professor of health law, policy and management and will discuss the importance of addressing mental health equity and the path forward for a healthier society.

Other panelists include: 

  • Dr. Shaneeta Johnson, a surgeon, clinician, educator and researcher at Morehouse School of Medicine and a senior fellow in global health at Satcher Health Leadership Institute.
  • Dr. Monique May, family physician known as the "Physician in the Kitchen."
  • Dr. Bennie L. Harris, chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate.
  • Sharon Lykins, Denny’s vice president of product innovation.

"Mental health and wellness significantly impact the quality of life of individuals, families and communities across the Upstate region and beyond," said Harris. "We are thrilled to join forces with a global leader like Denny's to address one of the most critical public health issues of our time."

Journalist Roland Martin will moderate two panels, "Mindful Eating" and "Wellness at the Workplace," that will address how food is connected to wellness and mental health in the workplace. He will also provide recommendations on what people can to do to address mental health in homes and communities.

Denny's noted that the post-pandemic period has ignited an increase in loneliness and mental illness. A 2021 American Psychological Association survey revealed that nearly three in five employees (59%) said they had experienced negative impacts of work-related stress in the past month, and a vast majority (87%) of employees thought actions from their employer would help their mental health.

A second mental health summit will be offered from 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. local time, Oct. 10, at Meharry Medical College in Nashville.

As of March 1, Denny's had 1,602 franchised, licensed and company restaurants.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.