Promotion results in super turnout at Denny's

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009
— The promotion was designed to reacquaint customers with Denny's.

But customers crammed into the eastside Janesville restaurant on Tuesday became closely acquainted with each other as they waited for their free Grand Slam breakfasts.

The restaurant chain gave away the breakfasts—retail value $5.99—to every customer who visited between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The Grand Slam includes two eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausage links and two pancakes.

In Janesville, Tuesday's eight-hour promotion stacked up to more than 2,000 eggs, bacon strips, sausage links and pancakes, said store manager Brian Buettell.

Marion Johnson and her mother, both of Elkhorn, stopped in about 11 a.m. The free meal appealed to Johnson, who said payday was not until Friday.

Between calling out customers' names from a running waiting list and ringing up checks for drinks and side orders, Buettell said the restaurant was packed all morning.

"Swanson, party of two," Buettell bellowed over the 50 or so people stacked up between the restaurant's front door and cash register. At times, the line lingered out the door, but Tuesday's temperatures encouraged closeness on the warm side of the door.

Wait times ranged from a half-hour to 45 minutes, although two people on their way to a table said they'd been waiting for two hours.

"No way—Kevin, party of four—were they waiting for two hours," Buettell said.

Around lunchtime, students from nearby Craig High descended on Denny's. Some of their elders alleged quietly that the kids were somehow manipulating the handwritten sign-in sheet to get themselves and their friends seated ahead of others.

"All this food for only $4.20," one student said incredulously as he wrapped up breakfast/lunch with three friends.

"Patrick, party of eight," Buettell boomed. "Folks, everyone needs to sign in to keep things in order."

Patrick left, someone chimed from the back of the pack.

"Martin, party of two ...Martin, going once ...twice...

"This next one, I can't read, but it starts with an 'S,'" Buettell said. "Anyone with an 'S'?"

Denny's promoted the freebie heavily, with a 30-second ad that aired during the third quarter of the Super Bowl on Sunday, another 15-second ad during the post-game show and a full-page ad in USA Today's Monday editions.

Across the country, Denny's dished up about 2 million free Grand Slams on Tuesday, with each of its restaurants about 130 an hour.

Reached later Tuesday, Buettell finally had a chance to catch his breath.

"Let me tell you," he said, "that was crazy, but it was a good time."

Last updated: 9:43 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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