Denny's President Resigns; Hardee's Founder Gets Job

The president of Denny's, Donald L. Pierce, has resigned, continuing a series of changes at the nation's largest coffee shop chain since its acquisition in September by TW Services.

Assuming responsibility for the 1,200-outlet company is Jerome J. Richardson, 51, president of TW Services and founder of its Spartan Food Systems division, which includes the Hardee's fast-food chain and Quincy's family steak houses.

He takes over at a time when TW Services has said its main focus will be on the Denny's operation, which the company intends to expand through franchising. In an interview this week with Dow Jones News Service, TW Services Chairman Frank L. Salizzoni said Denny's accounted for much of TW's anticipated decline in first-quarter earnings, which could drop as much as 22% to $7 million.

Pierce, 42, took the new posts of president and chief operating officer at Denny's in May, 1987, two months before the company agreed to a $218-million buyout by TW Services.

James J. Murren, an analyst with the New York brokerage of Cyrus J. Lawrence, said Pierce was highly regarded for his work with Denny's El Pollo Loco chain. "He was generally regarded as one of the reasons for the success of that chain," Murren said.

According to a spokesman, Richardson, whose office is in Spartanburg, S.C., has been ensconced in Denny's La Mirada headquarters this month. "Richardson . . . has been instrumental in what Denny's has been doing since the acquisition," Murren said. "Denny's is the key focus for improvement right now. It's the most important restaurant concept that they have by far."

Richardson founded Hardee's in the early 1960s and "grew that into quite a large chain that's extremely successful," the analyst added. Through its Spartan division, TW is Hardee's largest franchisee, with 402 restaurants.

To help Denny's along, TW Services has pared headquarters staff and broadened and improved the menu, offering meal combinations.

Since the buyout by TW Services, Denny's has seen the resignations of several officers, including Barry Krantz, vice president-marketing; John D. Radebaugh, senior vice president and chief financial officer, and Roger K. Mercier, senior vice president-corporate development and general counsel. A spokesman said several of the resignations were expected. Many of the executives, who participated in a management buyout of the chain in 1984, profited heavily when TW Services bought the company.

In addition, Carl E. Hass has resigned as president of the company's struggling Winchell's Donut Houses operation, 58% of which was spun off last year to the public in a master limited partnership. The remaining 42% is held by TW Services.

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