In this exclusive Q&A, I talk with John Dillon, chief brand officer and executive vice president at Denny’s, about a new nationwide partnership with St. Jude to support research in childhood cancer, Sickle Cell disease, and other life-threatening diseases.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us about your new relationship with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
John Dillon (JD): As “America’s Diner,” at the heart of Denny’s brand is a commitment to feeding people’s bodies, minds and souls. We have been talking with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for a few years about ways we might be able to work together to deliver on that purpose, and to benefit the wonderful work of St. Jude. We are so impressed with the amazing work they are doing to support pediatric cancer and sickle cell programs to help children and their families; we knew this was going to be a great fit for us.
Under the relationship, Denny’s will donate a portion of every meal ordered off our Denny’s kid’s menu to support the lifesaving mission of St. Jude – “Finding cures. Saving children.”
FC: Will Denny’s franchisees be involved?
JD: Absolutely, our new partnership is a system-wide initiative, in which every Denny’s restaurant will be participating. We’re all excited to see how we can work together to support this important cause.
FC: How will you be making donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital?
JD: We are supporting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in a few ways. Denny’s will donate a portion of every Denny’s kids’ meal sold to benefit the mission of finding cures and saving children. To help amplify this effort, we are promoting this partnership through our social channels and the Denny’s website, where our guests can make direct donations to St. Jude and help fund the medical research and treatments that will help children with cancer, sickle cell and other catastrophic diseases.
FC: It was a great idea to have one of the patients provide artwork for the kid’s meal menu. How did that come about?
JD: When touring St. Jude Children’s Hospital last year, we saw the creative and truly special pieces of art that the children staying at the hospital have created and shared throughout the facility. We saw the possibilities, spoke with the St. Jude team and they loved the idea of showcasing the amazing art designed by their young patients.
FC: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital focuses on numerous cancer research projects and sickle cell disease. How are Denny’s funds going to be used?
JD: There are so many incredible and important research projects going on at St. Jude, and we realize that so many families of our Denny’s team members and guests have been touched by diseases like sickle cell and cancer. At the core, we simply want to donate funds to underwrite research that will help save as many lives as we can. Denny’s ongoing commitment is to donate proceeds from every kids’ menu sale from every single restaurant across the United States.
FC: In addition to St. Jude, can you share with us other Denny’s-related nonprofit programs?
JD: We are at the center of communities, giving back to local and national organizations that impact children and families. Whether it’s providing a comforting meal or assistance during a crisis, Denny’s is where everyone is treated like family. Denny’s has long supported No Kid Hungry and are going into our 10th year this September as a partner to help combat childhood hunger. We have donated funds that directly connected more than 90 million meals to hungry kids since 2011.
When communities are devastated by natural disaster emergencies, we deploy our 53-foot Mobile Relief Diner to provide free, freshly made pancake breakfasts. In addition, since 2011, Denny’s Hungry for Education scholarship program has awarded more than $1.5 million in combined scholarships to elementary, high school and college students across the country. Denny’s and its franchisees support numerous charities in their local markets to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve.
At our corporate headquarters in Spartanburg, SC, Denny’s has donated more than $1.7 million over the past eight years to the United Way of the Upstate and helped fund the construction of 10 Habitat for Humanity homes while Denny’s franchisees donate their teams’ time, food and funds to numerous organizations.