John Dillon
Chief Marketing Officer

Denny’s CMO John Dillon on Rejuvenating America’s Diner, The Original Social Network

John Dillon, CMO of Denny's, has been on a mission for 11 years to rejuvenate one the most iconic American brands, which has taken him on a journey from Senior Director to CMO. With a diverse background in “Pizza, Sports and Bacon”, John started his career in finance and worked his way up through different roles, giving him a robust portfolio of skills in finance, field marketing and consumer insights along his path to CMO.  Today, John leads a marketing organization that includes not just internal functions, but a robust ecosystem of 270+ franchisee groups (90% of 1700+ locations are franchisee owned) where many of the best ideas are born.

With seven years of positive growth, John and Denny’s are clearly on the right track. But it took a concentrated effort of working closely with the franchisees and a lot of tough questions to turn the brand around.  With 95% brand awareness, the big question wasn’t IF you had heard of Denny’s, it was WHEN was the last time you dined at a Denny’s?

As John and the team worked to uncover the DNA of the Denny’s brand and bring more people back to their restaurants, they discovered their North Star. “We listened to guests and it led to our identification, which quite frankly is a big piece of our brand turnaround, identifying us as America's Diner.”  The word "diner" doesn’t just mean a place you eat, "It is where you come in as a guest, you lay your title and preconceived notions at the door. It's where a banker can come in and sit next to a plumber, can sit next to a school teacher, can sit next to a politician, and everybody's equal at a diner.”  It is a place where people gather to connect and talk about life and family and work.  It is the original Social Network.

Listen in on this fascinating conversation about how to turn a brand around by leveraging consumer insights, social media, AI, restaurant design, menu revamping, franchisee enrollment, and external and internal communications. Also, don’t miss the incredible story from John on how Denny’s rediscovered its purpose and why they are now building a truck!