Denny’s Corp. has outlined a number of new practices aimed at health and safety as dining rooms reopen amid easing of coronavirus restrictions.
John Miller, CEO of the Spartanburg, S.C.-based family-dining chain, said in a first-quarter earnings call that the brand is deploying “best-in-class practices for operations, customer service, cleaning and sanitation, and new social distancing measures.”
Miller said the company is encouraging all restaurants, which are predominantly franchised, to have a dedicated sanitation specialist who disinfects areas after every guest visit.
“This person wears an armband or a vest that identifies their role and leaves a card on every table notifying new guests that the area has been disinfected,” Miller noted.
High-touch surfaces in the restaurants are cleaned with a two-step clean-and-disinfect and then sanitize, he said.
“We have also removed high-touch items like table caddies and condiments from tables and continue to utilize single-use menus,” Miller said. “Our employees are expected to wear face masks and gloves, and we’ve supplied all restaurants with instructions and suppliers for mandatory temperature checks using no-touch forehead thermometers.”
Not only are employee temperatures checked, he said, but so are those for vendors and other service personnel entering the restaurants.
“Employees will be required to wash their hands and apply an alcohol-based sanitizer every 20 minutes,” Miller said. “In addition, guests will also have easy access to hand sanitizer, and we are encouraging the installation of sanitary shields at each cash register.”
Denny’s is also modifying the configuration of dining room tables and chairs to meet social-distancing standards.
“We are rearranging our dining rooms to accommodate proper social distancing measures and have supplied stores with signage to mark tables that are not currently in use,” Miller said. “We have developed merchandizing that highlights social distancing and other guest safety measures with floor decals, signs, door clings, roadside banners, yard signs, posters and table guards, just to name a few.”
Miller noted that consumers are fearful of COVID-19 and “don’t want to touch anything,” so Denny’s is considering a number of measures to accommodate that, including kick plates on bathroom doors and sneeze guards at registers.
Denny’s will also continue its off-premise efforts, through which delivery and “Dine-Thru” curbside pickup at 700 restaurants maintained some sales during the coronavirus dining room closures.
Robert Verostek, Denny's chief financial officer, said a Denny’s unit, in off-premise-only scenario, needed sales of about $1,500 a day to break even and cover food, labor and other costs.
“Dining-room service requires more staff, so our variable cost breakeven inclusive of management labor would be $2,000 to $2,500 per day,” Verostek said. “This would represent a sales level equivalent to approximately 55% of the average unit volumes generated by Denny's domestic franchise units in 2019.”
For the first quarter ended March 25, Denny’s net income was $9 million, or 16 cents a share, down from $15.5 million, or 24 cents a share, in the same period last year. Revenues fell to $96.7 million from $151.4 million in the prior-year quarter.
As of March 25, Denny's had 1,695 franchised, licensed and company restaurants around the world including 147 restaurants in Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Philippines, New Zealand, Honduras, the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Guam, Guatemala, the United Kingdom, El Salvador, Indonesia and Aruba.
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