The chain's kitchen on wheels keeps the coffee and pancakes coming as locals recover from major disasters.

Just over a week after Hurricane Ida tore through New Orleans and other parts of Louisiana, many residents who left the state before the storm have returned to assess the damage to their homes and businesses. According to NOLA Ready, over 46,200 locals are still without power and over 111,600 residents have applied for disaster assistance. 

Denny's Mobile Relief diner
Credit: Courtesy of Denny's

World Central Kitchen is still preparing meals throughout the state — although José Andrés flew to Washington, D.C. last night to help distribute 55,000 halal meals to Afghan refugees — and Denny's quietly drove its 53-foot-long mobile "diner on wheels" to La Place, Louisiana, where it is cooking and serving over 1,000 free pancake breakfasts every day.

"At Denny's, we love to feed people — mind, bodies and souls," John Dillon, Denny's chief brand officer, said in a statement published by Nations Restaurant News. "We see the devastation in local communities impacted by Hurricane Ida and the mobile relief diner allows us to do what we do best by going out into local communities to offer a hot and comforting meal during a time when they could really use it the most."

Denny's Mobile Relief Diner has served more than 50,000 pancake breakfasts in disaster-stricken areas since 2017. That August, just after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Texas, Denny's rented a mobile kitchen, set it up in the city, and staffed it with workers who handed out pancakes, bacon, and coffee to residents, first responders, and volunteers. It served 7,000 meals in six days, before packing up and heading to South Florida, to take care of those who were affected by Hurricane Irma. It served another 7,000 meals there. 

"The initial concept of the Mobile Relief Diner was created to serve as a quick, but temporary solution that we could get on the road in a timely manner," Dillon said in 2018.  "Over the course of two weeks, we were able to serve over 14,000 meals and seeing the impact that we had in those communities made us realize that the Mobile Relief Diner is the perfect embodiment of our brand. After retiring our truck last fall, we immediately began planning on how to make a better — and permanent — version of the Mobile Relief Diner to help as many people as we can."

According to Adweek, Denny's worked with a Wisconsin-based custom vehicle designer to create its more-permanent (and current) Mobile Relief Diner. Inside the 53-foot trailer is a "scaled down" version of a Denny's restaurant kitchen, which is equipped with grills, ovens, a freezer, and a commercial-sized coffee maker. 

Although the Denny's-On-Wheels is kitted out to make almost anything on its menu, Dillon told the outlet that it has a reason for serving all-day breakfasts instead. "There's something special about pancakes and bacon and coffee," he said. "There's something comforting about that meal in particular."

After a test-run in Northern California following a series of wildfires, the Mobile Relief Diner's first deployment was to both North and South Carolina after Hurricane Florence hit in September 2018. Since then, the Mobile Relief Diner has responded to additional southern hurricanes, Tennessee tornadoes, and California wildfires. Last November, it launched a three-state "Heroes Tour," which provided free hot breakfasts and lunches to military veterans who were experiencing homelessness; the Tour included the Mobile Relief Diner's first "planned" destinations when it wasn't being dispatched in response to a natural disaster. To see where and when the Mobile Relief Diner will be serving meals in Louisiana, you can check the @DennysMRD Twitter account or the Denny's Facebook page.