Denny's shakes up top management as sales slump

AP News
Posted: Dec 18, 2009 6:54 PM

Denny's Corp. on Friday unveiled a top management shake-up as sales growth remains sluggish at the casual dining restaurant chain.

Out are Mark Chmiel, chief marketing and innovation officer, and Janis Emplit, chief operating officer. Their duties will be split among the marketing and operations teams while Denny's is searching for their replacements.

Denny's CEO Nelson Marchioli said sales at restaurants open at least a year have been a "challenge" even as the company took steps to increase profits and cut debt.

In the third quarter, these comparable store sales fell 6.6 percent at company locations and 7.3 percent at those run by franchisees.

This figure is a key indicator of a restaurant operator's performance since it measures growth at existing stores rather than newly opened ones, which tend to do better and thus skew overall results.

As the restaurant industry becomes increasingly competitive, "it is necessary to ensure we have the leadership that can drive sales and the brand forward," Marchioli said in a statement.

Denny's is in the midst of switching to a business that primarily franchises, instead of owns, restaurants.

The company, based in Spartanburg, S.C., owns and operates 256 restaurants and franchises 1,289 others in the U.S., Canada, Costa Rica, Guam, Mexico, New Zealand and Puerto Rico.

Shares of Denny's were up 2 cents to $2.44 on Friday.