Yesterday, Arwen and I visited the Denny’s Corporate Headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We knew why we were going; Denny’s was announcing their partnership with Warner Bros. to introduce menu items and memorabilia inspired by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. What we didn’t realize was just how far they had gone to incorporate Tolkien’s Middle-earth.
“For The Hobbit, Warner Bros. wanted an entire immersion experience,” said Erik Jensen, Denny’s Director of Advertising. “Not just something on a cup.”
In addition to getting feedback from the film’s producers, including Peter Jackson, the Denny’s team also hit the books. Senior Manager of Product Innovation and Chef Scott Richard said, “We’re a bunch of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fans. This is a dream for us.” And I believe him! When answering our questions, I was honestly surprised by the Tolkien minutia that was thrown around by Denny’s executives.
They wanted to offer at least one menu item for each of the hobbit mealtimes: Breakfast, Second Breakfast, Elevensies, Luncheon, etc. “These are things hobbits would eat,” Jensen said, and Chef Richard said, “We looked at old country English fare.”
Along with items like the Shire Sausage Skillet (Chef Richard’s personal favorite), the Hobbit Hole Breakfast (my favorite), and the Seed Cake French Toast (Arwen’s favorite), Denny’s offers other tie-ins to the film.
Each placemat holds a map of Middle-earth, complete with unique QR codes. When scanned with a mobile device, guests will get an eyeful of Hobbit content that is only available from Denny’s. One will offer a behind-the-scenes look at their “Inspiration” commercial, featuring real-life Tolkien fans and cosplayers.
Another QR code takes fans inside Bag End. In the exclusive clip, we got an in-depth look at the Unexpected (Dinner) Party and an utterly flummoxed Bilbo as the dwarves raid his beloved pantry. A number of actors playing dwarves, like Richard Armitage and Jed Brophy, joked that it was more of a food fight than a party and Dean O’Gorman lead the dwarves in a rousing version of the song, “That’s What Bilbo Baggins Hates.” Stephen Hunter, who plays Bombur, said, “The more chaotic it got, the more Peter [Jackson] liked it.”
If you love food, hobbit holes, or dwarves, make sure you get to see it!
Customers who purchase items from the Hobbit menu will receive a pack of collectible trading cards with images from the film. According to Denny’s executives, these twelve collectible cards are the only trading cards that will be available for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Each pack contains two cards (Arwen’s had Fili and Dwalin, and mine had Gandalf the Grey and the Limited Edition Glamdring) and a 20% off coupon.
You can also visit the Dennys.com Hobbit Hub where they offer more ways to join in the fun. There are social and mobile games like The Character Quiz and The Dwarf Training Game. You can also Hobbitize Yourself and send a note to your social network friends with Postcards From Middle-earth.
I think it’s safe to say that we were all impressed and pleasantly surprised by the attention to detail and the number of Tolkien lovers employed by Denny’s. According to VP of Marketing John Dillon, inviting fans to a taste of Middle-earth was “an automatic no-brainer for us.”
The exclusive Hobbit inspired menu and trading cards will be available in locations in the US, Canada, and Mexico from November 6 to January 15. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set to release in the US on December 14, 2012.
Don’t forget to check out what we posted during the press conference! There are more exclusive photos there!