Denny’s 11th Hour Review Switch

Following the elimination earlier this month of Bernstein-Rein from the $50 million Denny’s Restaurants review, the winner appeared to be one of the three remaining finalists.

But last week, a late entry emerged. Dailey & Associates in West Hollywood, Calif., joined Mullen in Winston-Salem, N.C., Publicis in Mid America in Dallas and Doner in Southfield, Mich., in the final stages ofthe review.

Dailey is banking on both its restaurant experience and its long- standing ties to Margaret Jenkins, the new chief marketing officer at Denny’s, to win the business, said agency president Brian Morris.

Jenkins, who spent four years as vice president of marketing at fast-food-chicken chain El Pollo Loco in Irvine, Calif., hired Dailey to handle that account.

Morris maintained that Denny’s would not represent a conflict for the shop because the chain’s family- style dining format does not compete with the fast-food chain. He declined to say if the shop had approached Jenkins or if she initiated the contact.

Prior to Dailey’s inclusion, the three other contenders had been given an assignment that Jenkins said would encompass creative, media merchandising and “all the pieces of the communications puzzle.”

Jenkins, who arrived at Denny’s Spartanburg, S.C., headquarters six weeks ago, added that if a clear winner did not emerge, she would expand the search.

“The process started [last March] before I came on board,” she said. “Right now, I’m comfortable [with the contenders], but I reserve the right to inject my opinion. I won’t make a decision if I don’t think it’s right.”

Her statements, given her ties to Dailey, were greeted with skepticism by at least one finalist. Another called the relationship one more potential pitfall in a new-business pitch. “Sure, we know about Dailey,” said one agency executive. “We can’t let it bother us.”

Atlanta’s WestWayne, the incumbent for the past two years, did not participate in the review, which is be ing overseen by The Rojek Cutcher Group in Cleveland.

According to one source, Dailey is scheduled to present this week.