Denny’s Learned to Adapt to COVID So Can Your Restaurant!

How did CEO Dawn Lafreeda figure out how to adapt to COVID and operate 85 Denny’s locations during the pandemic?

It is “challenging” is an understatement!

She has been fighting every day to keep her business, employees, and customers healthy.

Having to be responsible for one location is difficult enough.

Being responsible for multiple state locations is unmanageable!

Denny’s is looking at this as an opportunity to add offerings and ideas to their 67-year brand and heritage.

Lafreeda says, “I have restaurants in seven states, and the rules vary from state to state, and the challenges are never-ending. We typically follow the governor’s rules, but we have situations where the mayors also exercise authority that we need to consider.

This presents a huge challenge in ordering and staffing as we are unable to predict from week to week what we may be up against.”

Denny’s Learned to Adapt to COVID

Solutions and Innovations That Are Working at Denny’s Can Help Your Restaurant







To stay compliant in each city and state, they have a spreadsheet that details PPE requirements, social distancing rules, hours of operation, curfews, and allowed capacity. The rules frequently change, sometimes daily, but they can put new data as it changes.

They have developed outdoor dining at select locations, added curbside and dine-thru services to feed guests while socially distancing. Adding booth partitions, a digital menu via scannable QR code, touchless options, and more portable meal options.

The level of innovation at Denny’s seen during this pandemic has been incredible, and most of it has come straight from the restaurant teams.

Team the magic word! Keeping all employees aware of what is happening and being open to their suggestions can help your restaurant get through these difficult times.

 Add a Sanitation Specialist to Your Team

Earlier this year, Denny’s created the “Sanitation Specialist” position.

This can be someone at the management level or in front of the house.

They must be trained on proper cleaning and sanitizing procedures and cleaning using the proper tools and approved disinfectants. That, along with other safety and satiation protocols, will help make your guests feel more comfortable.

Deep cleaning all high-touch and non-contact surfaces regularly. Employees are required to wear face masks and gloves and to take a mandatory temperature check before work.

This will make guests feel safe eating at your restaurant.

Listening to Customers’ Feedback!

It is important to listen to your guests, and they are your number one priority. Keeping your customers and our employees safe and top of mind.

Some specific things Denny’s is doing.

~Analyzing hours of operation, simplfy menu size, and staffing hours.

~Renegotiate contracts with food distributors.

~Creating food offerings that are portable as well as family meal packs.

~Learning to be more flexible and open to ideas that do not necessarily fit your traditional business model.

Denny’s Learned to Adapt to COVID So Can Your Restaurant

Silver Linings from the Pandemic








While sadly, many businesses that have closed will not reopen, the strange positive side is it will offer a bigger pool of employees to businesses struggling to find enough help. Pre-pandemic record low unemployment made staffing a huge problem for many years.

Entrepreneurs who can get through this will take advantage of the vacant locations on the market and at more favorable lease terms. Negotiate your leases, contracts, loans, and insurance policies to better protect your business from things like civil authority, terrorism, and pandemics.

Do everything in your power to ensure you have a sustainable and scalable business that would endure the test of time and unpredicted threats.

It will be an opportunity to expand. Many markets have been over-saturated for a long time, making it difficult for some to succeed. Unfortunately, while not all will not survive the pandemic, those who do may see an increase in volume as there will be fewer consumers’ choices.

Don’t Let Fear Keep Dream!


jeannette goldman wearing chef shirt









The American dream is at our fingertips if we want it. I wanted it, and I will always want it.

I see this as a prime opportunity for entrepreneurs.

This is a unique moment in time. With the right idea and business plan, you can experience huge success.

I see opportunities everywhere.

As my father-in-law (invested in my business) always told me during my restaurant owner days, people are always going to eat, and they might as well eat your great food!

Do you need help starting your restaurant or advice on what you can do in this current foodservice environment?

If you so to go to my site and find the resources that can give you the information to succeed during these difficult times.