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Wendy’s and Denny’s: Breakfast and Late Night Dining Drives Success

by 
Lila Margalit
 on 
April 29, 2024
Wendy’s and Denny’s: Breakfast and Late Night Dining Drives Success

Restaurants continue to face headwinds, from still-high food-away-from-home prices to rising labor costs. But despite these challenges, there are promising signs that the industry may be in for an upturn. And increasingly, chains are leaning into breakfast and late night offerings to maximize revenue and foster customer loyalty. 

So with Q1 2024 under our belts, we checked in with Wendy’s and Denny’s, two dining leaders with very different offerings in the breakfast space. How did they weather the first quarter of 2024 (pun intended)? And which dayparts experienced the biggest visit boosts in Q1? 

Key Takeaways

  • After dipping in January, year-over-year (YoY) visits to Wendy’s and Denny’s picked up in February and March 2024 – driving a YoY increase in quarterly visits for both chains.
  • For Wendy’s, the breakfast daypart experienced the biggest visit increase, followed by the 8:00 PM to 12:00 AM time slot.
  • Denny’s, which famously offers breakfast 24 hours a day, saw the biggest YoY visit increases midday and during the late night hours.

A Strong Start to the Year

After a tough Q4 2023 – and a January 2024 dragged down by cold and stormy weather – YoY visits to Wendy’s and Denny’s began to pick up in February and March 2024. And even accounting for January’s Arctic blast, Wendy’s and Denny’s came out ahead on a quarterly basis, with YoY visits up 0.7% and 1.0% respectively. 

Wendy’s Ups its Breakfast and Nighttime Game

Wendy’s first launched its breakfast menu in March 2020, just before COVID sent the dining industry into a tailspin. But despite a rocky start, Wendy’s doubled down on the morning daypart, continually tweaking its breakfast offerings and investing ad dollars to boost breakfast sales. 

Drilling down into hourly visit data shows that this strategy is paying off. Visits to Wendy’s during the morning daypart (between 6:00 AM and 11:00 AM) jumped 9.3% in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023. The chain’s nighttime daypart – which the burger giant began advertising in 2023 for the first time in four years – also saw a YoY boost. Meanwhile, Wendy’s traditional lunch and dinner time slots held steady, with just minor quarterly visit gaps, indicating that the chain’s overall YoY visit growth in Q1 was driven by its breakfast and nighttime push.  

Denny’s Anytime Breakfast Drives Lunch Time and Late Night Visits

Denny’s has always been all about breakfast. And with some 75.0% of Denny’s locations open 24/7 (even on Christmas), hungry diners frequent the chain day and night to satisfy their cravings for hash browns, eggs, pancakes, and other breakfast favorites. 

Unsurprisingly, the chain gets most of its visits in the morning and early afternoon. But in Q1 2024, it was the late night daypart that experienced the biggest YoY visit bump – perhaps driven in part by Denny’s push last year to increase the number of locations open in the wee hours. 

But Denny’s busiest time slot, between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM, also experienced a YoY visit increase – showing that even as the chain cements its role as a go-to nighttime destination, it continues to face healthy demand during more traditional dining dayparts.

The Most Important Meal(s) of the Day

Breakfast and late night dining offerings have emerged as important drivers of dining success. How will these dayparts continue to fare as the year wears on? And which other brands will make inroads into the breakfast and nighttime dining game?

Follow Placer.ai’s data-driven dining analyses to find out. 

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