Cheers June 2016

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 17 of 43 18 • June 2016 | | | | | | PROFILE | | | | | | T GI Fridays has always been about fun and socializing. After all, the casual restaurant brand started out as perhaps the fi rst singles bar when it opened in New York 51 years ago. The way people socialize, eat and drink has changed, though, and TGI Fridays is evolving to meet the needs of modern guests. That means embracing busy consumers' digital connections with better WiFi, Instagram-worthy fare and a coffee-shop vibe with comfortable places for guests to sit and work or gather for fun. Customers today—particularly the all-important Millennials—seek shared, social activities that let them connect with friends while making new acquaintances. But it's not easy to get the younger consumers out of their houses, so Fridays has several initiatives to attract guests and keep them returning. "We are on an ongoing innovation journey," says Matt Durbin, vice president of concept development at Fridays. "We continue to evolve our brand for our guests," who already recognize the chain as a place for social occasions, he notes. Fridays in March opened a freshly redesigned location in Corpus Christi, TX, with new features such as a common area designed like a coffee shop, complete with grab-and-go food items, multi-bar areas that serve fresh juices and coffee, and a stronger Wi-Fi network. The revamped Corpus Christi unit, along with a location in Farmingville, NY, will serve as testing grounds for greater rollouts. LIGHTENING UP TGI Fridays restaurants are known for the red-and-white awning motif, red leather seats and busy, dark wood interiors. You won't fi nd any of that at the Corpus Christi prototype. Instead, blond wood, modern design aesthetics and lots of natural light characterize the space. Community tables with comfortable seating for about 40 to 50 people offer plenty of space for hanging out. "Social" is a major focus in the Fridays brand evolution: Guests can sit in the common area and work on their laptops or congregate there with a cocktail before eating, or hang around after a meal with for drinks. Large groups have also used these spaces for parties or other events, says Durbin. Food and drink for sale in these areas also refl ects coffee bars. This includes prepackaged sandwiches, salads, parfaits, cookies, brownies and an expanded coffee menu, including freshly ground options. FRIDAYS GETS A REFRESH How casual dining chain TGI Fridays aims to update and improve the customer experience By Kyle Swartz

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