News Nugget: TGI Fridays Closes 36 US Restaurants

Here we go… I’ve been saying it for almost a 10 years: The Fast Food sector will face a brutal shakeout by the middle of this decade. And today, we have another sign that my prediction is coming to pass. TGI Fridays is closing dozens of locations…

Resto Interior - © TGI Fridays

TGI Friday’s isn’t a Fast Food operation. But it is a casual chain in the same class as Olive Garden and Applebee’s, which operate in the market space right next door. And brands such as Panera Bread and Panda Express actually blur the distinction between the two.

On shakey ground

To be fair, TGI Friday’s hasn’t been doing too well lately, just because it’s failed to focus on a clear, bold identity that patrons can understand and relate to. But that’s not the story today.

At its peak, TGI Friday’s had more than 600 restaurants in the US and abroad. As of the closures announcement, it was down to only 270. And will be left with just 234.

About 1,000 – 80 percent of – employees who will be affected will be offered transfer opportunities to other TGIF locations. One bright note…

A brave front

The top management of TGI Friday’s spoke with a brave voice in the January 3 news release that announced the closures:

“We see a bright future for TGI Fridays,” declared Weldon Spangler, CEO of TGI Fridays. “We are at the helm of a pivotal moment that will allow us to explore boundless advancement, expansion, and innovation to keep delivering ‘That Fridays Feeling™’ that our fans know and love.”

“Our top priority has always been delivering a superior experience for each and every TGI Fridays guest,” said Ray Risley, US President and Chief Operating Officer of TGI Fridays. “By strengthening our franchise model and closing underperforming stores, we are creating an unprecedented opportunity for Fridays to drive forward its vision for the future.”

My take

I hinted, at the top of this post, that I’m not particularly sanguine about TGI Fridays prospects for the future. They do have a problem with their marketing image, and they haven’t really kept up with their larger competitors on the advertising and specials front. For instance.. How many of you knew they had a rewards program and mobile ordering app?

Further to the image thing, I’ve always assumed Fridays was a business lunch kind of place. They’re almost exclusively located in core areas, surrounded by office buildings. Their occasional suppertime promotions always struck me more as a bar-oriented proposition than a family eatery. And anyone familiar with the resto business will tell you, no eatery can ‘make it’ on lunch alone. Unless, maybe, it’s a street food cart.

Anyway… We’ll keep an eye on TGI Fridays as time marches on. And we’ll be on the lookout for further indications that the Big Fast Food Shakeout has come…

~ Maggie J.