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10 Things You Might Not Know About Denny's

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From television tie-ins to jambalaya in Japan, Denny's has been serving up grand slams at midnight for decades.

1. IT WAS ORIGINALLY NAMED "DANNY’S."

Richard Jezak and Harold Butler opened the first "Danny’s Donuts" in Lakewood, Calif. in 1953. There was no notable “Danny” in either of their lives; they just thought the alliteration was charming. The 24-hour doughnut shop grew quickly, expanding to a larger menu and roughly 20 locations by 1959, and changing its name to Danny’s Coffee Shops along the way. But the founders worried that the mini-chain was at risk of getting confused with nearby Coffee Dan’s, so they switched one letter to create the Denny’s we know today.

2. HANK AARON INSPIRED THE SIGNATURE BREAKFAST.

Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast combo platter debuted in an Atlanta location in 1977, as a nod to Hank Aaron, who had set a new MLB home run record while playing for the Braves three years before.

3. DENNY’S ALMOST NEVER CLOSES—WHICH MEANS IT ONCE OVERLOOKED A VERY IMPORTANT FEATURE...

Denny’s has been famous for decades for their 24-hour promise all 365 days of the year—if you want breakfast food late at night on a Sunday, Denny’s has you covered. But the problem with this policy took a few years to show itself: When almost all the Denny’s locations closed for Christmas Day in 1988, many stores realized that they didn’t have any keys, or even locks, since they never used them. All told, 700 of the 1221 restaurants needed to get new locks installed for the holiday.

4. WHEN DENNY’S OFFERED FREE FOOD, THEY REALIZED HOW MANY PEOPLE LOVE FREE FOOD.

In 2009 and 2010 Denny’s ran a rather tantalizing Super Bowl ad. The spot promised a free Grand Slam breakfast to all customers one day the week following the big game. After serving up two million free meals each of those years, the chain called off the free-for-all.

5. DENNY’S LOVED BREAKING BAD.

Few companies wanted to be associated with the gritty show, but Breaking Bad paid Denny’s to use one of the restaurants in multiple scenes, and despite the unsavory nature of the scenes (like, a place to grab a bite after a murder), the brand embraced the connection, which helped kick off a new kind of product placement. Last year, fans were outraged when the Albuquerque location that appeared in the show moved, even if it was just two miles away.

6. IT'S ALSO BEEN ON SOUTH PARK.

Denny’s was an early adopter of the belief that if something is good, adding bacon to it only makes it better. In 2011, they unveiled a “Baconalia” menu, which featured the popular pork product in items like pancakes, meatloaf, and even an ice cream sundae. The decadent offerings made a brief cameo on South Park where the boys all show up every night for Baconalia; again, Denny's loved the exposure. Two years later, Denny’s brought back an expanded Baconalia menu for another brief stint.

7. DENNY’S LOVES THE HOBBIT MOVIES.

In both 2012 and 2013, Denny’s featured a limited-time Middle Earth menu pegged to installments of The Hobbit movies. Most of the items included classic autumnal flavors like turkey, pecan, and pumpkin, and seemed plenty hearty enough to not necessitate a second breakfast.

8. IN JAPAN, DENNY’S MAKES JAMBALAYA—IN MICROWAVABLE FORM.

The Japanese Denny’s menu has some divergences from what we know here in America. One of the most notable is the jambalaya—which is so popular that this year, Denny’s partnered with the makers of Cup of Noodle to create a line of instant microwavable jambalaya, available in grocery stores and Denny’s locations across Japan.

9. NEW YORK CITY’S DENNY’S ADDS A LITTLE CLASS TO CLASSIC DINER BREAKFAST.

New York City got its first Denny’s in 2014, and the Financial District diner does things a little differently than other locations. To infuse a little Big Apple sophistication, the menu includes cocktails—often pricier than main courses—and a $300 “Grand Cru Slam” breakfast. For the cost of an upscale dinner, a pair of patrons can get two grand slam breakfasts and a vintage bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon Premier Cru champagne—and a “bartender high-five.”

10. DENNY’S LANDED SOME BIG-NAME CELEBS FOR A WEB SERIES.

In 2011, eager to attract a younger demographic, Denny’s debuted “Always Open,” a web series featuring SNL alum and Anchorman star David Koechner chatting with major celebrities like Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, and Chris Pratt at an L.A. Denny’s. Denny’s partnered with CollegeHumor.com and production company DumbDumb for the unscripted, three- to four-minute videos, which didn’t even include any direct mention of the brand.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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Design
The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Tengi

Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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