Harold Butler

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For other people named Harold Butler, see Harold Butler (disambiguation).

Harold Butler (1921 – July 9, 1998) was an American entrepreneur. He is most recognized for being the founder of the Denny's casual dining restaurant chain in the late 1950s. Butler also helped develop numerous other chains, including Winchell's Donuts, Naugles, and Jojo's.[1]

In 1953, Harold Butler and his partner opened Danny's Donuts in Lakewood, California.[2] In 1955, after his partner's departure from the now 6-store chain, Butler created and changed the concept a year later in 1956 from a donut shop to a coffee shop with store #8. Danny's Donuts is renamed Danny's Coffee Shops and changes its operation to 24 hours.[2] In 1959, to avoid confusion with Los Angeles restaurant chain, Coffee Dan's, Butler changed the name from Danny's Coffee Shops to Denny's Coffee Shops. In 1961, Denny's Coffee Shops becomes Denny's.[2]

In 1963, Butler began franchising Denny's.[3] Under his leadership, the chain expanded to 800 locations. He once explained, "I love to feed people."[1]

Butler died of a heart attack on July 9, 1998 in La Paz, Mexico, where he was retired.[1] He was survived by his wife Jean (a one-time Denny's waitress and franchise owner).


  1. ^ a b c Myrna Oliver (July 11, 1998). "Harold Butler; Founder of Denny's Chain". Los Angeles Times. 
  2. ^ a b c dennys.com/#/about/history
  3. ^ Scott Allen (May 4, 2011). "Humble origins of 10 favorite restaurants". CNN.