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HEARD ON THE BEAT / RESTAURANTS

Denny's Greets Future by Stepping Back to '50s

May 20, 1999|GREG HERNANDEZ

Denny's might already be the country's largest full-service restaurant chain, but the company is embarking on an image make-over for the year 2000 by delving back to the 1950s with retro decor and a new name: Denny's Diner.

The company announced this week that it intends to remodel approximately 150 of the chain's company-owned restaurants, including some in Los Angeles, by the end of the year, with more to follow. There are more than 1,700 Denny's restaurants across the country, 55% of which are company-owned and the remainder owned by franchisees. There are no immediate plans yet for any Orange County locations to be remodeled, company officials said.

The remodeled restaurants were successfully tested in Orlando, Fla., Philadelphia and Seattle. They featured an expanded selection of "comfort food" such as turkey, meatloaf and pot roast open-faced sandwiches.

In a separate project, the chain has opened 18 smaller eateries in 10 states. These Denny's Classic Diners are a smaller version of the restaurant, offering about two-thirds of the regular menu. The first of the smaller diners in Orange County will open in Dana Point on Sunday.

The smaller eateries feature jukeboxes, neon lighting, glass-block walls and checkerboard-patterned floor and tile. The menu features double-decker hamburgers, chili fries and the classic banana split.

"Even the uniforms will be totally different," said the owner of the Dana Point diner, Sia Adabkah, who also owns traditional Denny's restaurants in Los Alamitos and Lake Forest. "We will be wearing red and black shirts with a nice logo and we have even been authorized to wear shorts because we're by the beach."

Adabkah's restaurant, which he owns with his wife, Maryam Kazemi, will have 72 seats, including a 45-seat patio area. The couple spent $750,000 to renovate the building, which had been a series of other restaurants.

The new eatery, at 34242 Del Obispo St., will open to regular business at 3 p.m. Sunday after a grand-opening party.

Greg Hernandez covers the restaurant industry for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-5989 and at greg.hernandez@latimes.com.

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