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Chain LeaderEditorial Archives2005 — June — Restauratour

Clutter Free
T.G.I. Friday’s keeps the nostalgic feeling going without wall-to-wall memorabilia.

Take an online tour of T.G.I. Friday’s
Photography by John Payne

Decluttering’s all the rage these days, with books, magazines and TV shows telling Americans what to do with all that stuff crowding their attics, basements and garages.

T.G.I. Friday’s is no exception. The 600-unit chain’s first major new look in 20 years all but clears the restaurants of old washboards, road signs, rustic-looking bicycles and other “grandma’s attic” memorabilia, replacing them with bright contemporary graphics and nostalgic pieces that resonate with a new generation of Friday’s customers.

The new look confines a few choice pieces to one wall, then halogen-lights the collection as if it were a work of art.

A wall section plastered with album covers from the ’70s and ’80s provides a nostalgia kick for baby boomer customers. A generational “anthem,” played at least once an hour on an upgraded sound system, offers an aural counterpoint to the wall of albums.


Tuscan Spinach Dip with tortilla chips and ciabatta garlic bread, $6.69

Sizzling Platter
Sizzling Chicken and Shrimp: sauteed chicken breast with onions and peppers paired with shrimp in tomato-basil salsa, served over American and Mexican cheeses with mashed potatoes, $10.99

Strawberry Fields Salad: mixed greens, Parmesan, glazed pecans and balsamic vinaigrette, topped with balsamic-marinated strawberries, shaved Parmesan and black pepper, $6.79

Key West Grouper: pan-roasted and served with roasted vegetables, $10.79

The new Friday’s is brighter and more open. Glass panes festooned with frosted stars have replaced solid room dividers, allowing diners to see the entire restaurant. Halogen and incandescent lights are adjustable, rather than fixed at a certain level like the fluorescent lights of yore.

Outside, the awnings no longer feature Friday’s signature wide red and white stripes. The stripe is narrower, the red’s deeper, and the awnings are trimmed with stainless steel.

“It’s fantastic,” says Chris Devlin, Friday’s vice president of construction and design. “It’s a billboard announcing that something has changed.”

Off the Radar Screen
More than “something” has changed: The remodel is part of a brand revitalization that Friday’s embarked on two years ago in anticipation of the chain’s 40th anniversary this year. In focus groups, the brand scored high awareness, and customers said they had great memories of Friday’s. “They had a good feeling about the brand,” says Richard Snead, president and CEO of Carrollton, Texas-based Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, parent company of Friday’s.

But that good feeling didn’t spark more than an occasional visit to the restaurants. “Our research said we weren’t getting medium and heavy users,” Snead says. “Their answer was, ‘You’re not on our radar screen; I don’t think of you that often.’”

It was “a question of relevancy,” Snead says, ranging from the menu to the interior to the entire dining experience. “Those things on the wall,” he says. “We called it ‘memorabilia.’ They called it ‘junk.’”

Friday’s at first worked with several designers to bring the look into the 21st century. Snead, however, wasn’t happy with their work, calling it too “institutional.” So he brought in RISS, a design firm from Oslo, Norway, which had redesigned a franchised restaurant in that country. “They were doing things that had color and energy and liveliness,” he says.


T.G.I. Friday’s


Glenview, Ill.
Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, Carrollton, Texas
Opening Day
Oct. 15, 2004
10,000 square feet
2005 Unit Sales
$7.8 million*
Average Unit Volume
$3.5 million
Expansion Plans

75 corporate and 25 franchised locations to remodel this year, plus 40 new domestic and 30 new international stores. 2006: 50 corporate, 50 to 75 franchised remodels; 50 to 60 new domestic and 30 new international stores

The Norwegian firm came up with the massive wall graphics emblazoned with American icons, as well as the color palette, which avoids black but makes good use of navy, robin’s-egg blue and a deep, expensive-looking red.

Friday’s called on domestic franchisees, who operate half of the chain’s U.S. restaurants, to help with the use and placement of the memorabilia and provide feedback on the awnings and exterior, according to Devlin.

More Like Leno
The first remodeled store opened in January 2003 in Plano, Texas. The remodeling program advanced slowly, to 24 company locations in various markets and restaurant configurations in 2003 and then to 55 of the total 256 company stores in 2004.

Friday’s began with company stores partly because franchise rules require the company to remodel 25 percent of its stores before asking franchisees to do the same.

More important, Friday’s wanted to prove to franchisees that the new look works. “We had to have a portfolio of stores in a portfolio of markets to show them a cash-on-cash return,” Snead says. “We wanted franchisees to say, ‘Hey, I ought to do this,’ rather than, ‘You’re going to make me do this.’”

The remodel is not inexpensive. Costs run $450,000 to $500,000 for older stores, which average 8,000 to 9,000 square feet, and $250,000 to $300,000 for newer stores, which average 6,000 to 6,500 square feet. Finding a stock source for the stainless-steel elements and a domestic source for the wall graphics helped cut costs, Devlin says.

But it is working, so well that early this summer Friday’s will begin requiring franchisees to remodel. Thanks to higher traffic counts, remodeled stores are seeing 5 percent to 7 percent net sales increases compared to unremodeled stores in their markets, Snead says. He adds that even though the company didn’t raise menu prices, the redesigned, reorganized and more compact menu caused a 17-cent jump in check averages.

And focus groups, formerly critical, have begun to compliment the new Friday’s. Snead says that one researcher asked customers to compare the fresh Friday’s to one of two famous faces: actor Nick Nolte or comedian Jay Leno. Overwhelmingly, customers likened the new Friday’s to Leno. “He’s seen as contemporary and fresh, and has a following,” Snead says.

“I felt pretty good about that, to tell you the truth.”

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