Grand Slam Wedding

Iowa State’s Nancy Keller says “I do” in Denny’s Las Vegas wedding chapel.

Published in FSD Update

By 
Lindsey Ramsey, Contributing Editor

Photograph: AP courtesy of
Denny’s Corp.

Talk about loving foodservice. When Nancy Keller [formerly Levandowski], director of ISU Dining at Iowa State University, in Ames, saw that Denny’s was opening a new in-house wedding chapel in Las Vegas, she couldn’t resist giving them a call to see if she and her husband-to-be, Steve Keller, could get married there while in town for the Chain Operators Exchange (COEX) conference in March.

“When I called they said the space wasn’t going to be ready by the conference,” Keller says. “But they said if we wanted, we could write an essay and enter a contest to be the first couple chosen. As I was getting ready to fly in to COEX, I got the call that we had been chosen out of 24 couples.”

Taking advantage of her work trip, Keller was able to meet with the team at Denny’s, the florist and other wedding-related vendors to set everything up. She also got her first taste of the spotlight when John Dillon, vice president of brand marketing and product innovation for Denny’s, was giving a presentation at the conference.

“During his presentation he asked if anyone had every gotten married at a Denny’s,” Keller says. “He didn’t know I was at the conference. We got connected and I ended up in front of 500 people to talk about how I was planning to get married there.”

Why Denny’s? It’s a valid question Keller faced about the decision. In fact, she says the first reaction she got from family and friends about the plan was laughter. However, her contest essay got to the root of why she and her husband decided to go for it.

“It’s the second marriage for the both of us,” Keller says. “Plus, as I shared in my
essay, in college I used to study at Denny’s. It was open 24 hours and they kept giving you refills of coffee. They’d let you sit there and study and then you’d order a Grand Slam Breakfast before you went and took your final. Both my husband and I had spent plenty of the wee hours of the morning at a Denny’s.”

For the actual big day itself, Keller says, the company really took care of them. Denny’s paid for the couple’s flights and put them up in the Bellagio hotel. The wedding itself featured pancake pop wedding cake and Grand Slamosa cocktails, along with assorted Denny’s cuisine. There was even a Denny’s photo booth to capture memories of the day. What Keller didn’t plan for was the amount of media attention the event ended up receiving.

“‘Inside Edition’ filmed a segment on the wedding, and it was mentioned on
Letterman twice and once on Leno,” Keller says. “We were the Top 10 on Letterman—Top 10 Things Overheard at the Denny’s Wedding. They weren’t very nice, but they were funny. I’ve had friends in Canada and even Beirut call and say congratulations because they saw something about it on TV.” 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
to-go coffee

We have a fixed kiosk that not only sells coffee, but also protein smoothies, grab-and-go reimbursable meals and other a la carte items. We used updated equipment like what is used in Starbucks and incorporated school colors. It is a very popular addition to one of our high schools, and we are planning on expanding it to two additional high schools.

Menu Development
sam kass talking menu directions

Sam Kass, former White House senior policy advisor for nutrition policy and executive director of the Let’s Move campaign, spoke at FSD’s MenuDirections conference in February.

Q: What’s one of the biggest food-related problems facing our country?

A: Obesity is the No. 1 threat to national security—20% of what we’re spending on healthcare is due to obesity. This isn’t a policy problem. The root of our challenge is culture, and what we value in our food. The healthy choice needs to be the easy choice.

Q: What are some important steps to modeling healthy eating and creating...
Menu Development
three sisters salad

“Everyone is doing Thai in college dining,” says Patrick McElroy, campus executive chef for Bon Appetit at Washington University in St. Louis. So he set out to “push the envelope” on ethnic cuisine and offer Native American dishes—a move that had support from the American Indian Student Association. But McElroy didn’t realize the challenge ahead. “I wanted to maintain the integrity and tradition of the food, but there were very few recipes,” he says. “I had to do a lot of research.” To develop the menu, he enlisted the help of chef Nephi Craig, founder of the Native American Culinary...

Menu Development
chili spaghetti

Iconic local dishes like Cincinnati chili may not be entirely healthy, but they are incredibly popular. Across the country, K-12 operators are finding ways to add these foods to their lunch menus while still meeting their nutritional requirements. How are they adapting popular recipes and bringing them to schools—and is it worth it?

Cincinnati chili has been a staple of Mason City Schools lunches for as long as anyone can remember. Located just outside of Cincinnati, the school system serves its chili in two traditional ways: covering a pile of spaghetti, or atop a cheese Coney dog...

FSD Resources