Why Denny's Christmas Hours Were Once Its Biggest Scandal

A haven for everyone from college students hungry for pancakes in the middle of the night, long-haul truckers, and breakfast-craving night owls, Denny's operates with a business model that puts it above some other diners — Denny's operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week making Denny's one of the few restaurants truly willing to serve its customers no matter what time of day it is (via The Cold Wire).

Of course, being open 24/7 has a few drawbacks. According to Restaurant Business, the chain's success runs on the promise that it's open 24/7, meaning that no matter what happens, Denny's must remain open. When Denny's was forced to reduce hours and even close restaurants due to the pandemic, its sales had begun to noticeably decline. It was only after reopening for 24 hours a day, reports FSR Magazine, that the chain was able to recover back to pre-pandemic sales. 

But what would happen if Denny's closed even for just one night? This question was answered back in the 1980s when Denny's, to celebrate the Christmas season, closed down a majority of its restaurants to give employees the holiday off (via The New York Times). This act of goodwill would wind up having an unfortunate effect on Denny's publicity and call into question security measures at every operating Denny's.

Denny's didn't have any locks

If a 24/7 Denny's closed its doors for just one night, what do you suppose would happen? Would it be burgled by criminals looking for cash, using the lull in activity to make a clean getaway? Would people be furious that they could no longer get a Grand Slam at midnight? While these are all good guesses, the answer would probably be another question: If these places are always open, would they have any way to lock the doors?

According to The New York Times, in 1988, Denny's decided to close all but six restaurants for the Christmas season. This turned out to be a problem, considering that a majority of the restaurants didn't have any locks for their doors. After all, why would they need to lock up if they were open 24/7? The restaurants that did have doors that could be locked didn't even have keys, which had been lost or misplaced long ago. Again, why need keys to lock up if you're open all night? As Tastemade elaborates, not only were Denny's managers finding themselves searching for keys but the chain had to hire locksmiths for almost all of its restaurants. This no doubt cost the company even more money than what they had expected to lose during their closure.

Today, while Denny's is still opem 24/7 for late-night diners, it's likely a bit more secure than when it was in the 1980s if those locks are still intact.