Los Angeles Almanac Logo
Home | All Almanac Topics | Economy & Business

Origins of Denny's Restaurant
in Los Angeles County

Denny's Restaurant, Monrovia

Postcard showing Denny's Restaurant in Monrovia, California, circa 1959. Courtesy Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers Collection.

The Denny's Restaurant chain, now found nationwide, was founded in Lakewood in 1953 by Harold Butler and Richard Jezak. It first opened as a single donut shop named Danny’s Donuts. Butler declared that their shop's purpose was "To serve the best cup of coffee, make the best donuts, give the best service, offer the best value and stay open 24 hours a day.”

The partners added more shops in the following year and added sandwiches and other entrées to the menu. The shops were later renamed Danny's Coffee Shops. In 1956, Jezak left the partnership. By 1959, the chain had expanded to 20 restaurants and, in 1961, was renamed Denny's in order to not be confused with another chain named Doughnut Dan's.

In 1967, Denny's opened its first restaurant outside the United States in Alcapulco, Mexico. In 1987, Denny's, by then the nation's largest chain of coffee shops, was purchased by TW Services Inc., a company that traced its origins to the former Trans World Airlines (TWA). Two years later, in 1989, after long being headquartered in La Mirada, Denny's moved its central offices to Irvine in Orange County. However, only one year later, in 1990, TW Services decided to move Denny's headquarters out of Southern California - its birthplace - to consolidate with the parent's own headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Also see: Origins of Some Local Food Empires in Los Angeles County