Top five reasons T.G.I. Friday's isn't cool anymore

Categories: Cafe Society


TGI-FRIDAYS-ANGUS-STEAK.jpg
T.G.I. Friday's new craft-beer-soaked Angus steak.
T.G.I. Friday's would be so much cooler if the chain would just embrace and enjoy the fact that it's a punchline.

Being a joke isn't necessarily a bad thing. Charlie Sheen, Tom Tancredo and the entire cast of Jersey Shore get it and make it work for them, and are probably chuckling their way to the bank every single day. Okay, maybe Tancredo hasn't figured it out yet, but he really should soon.

Friday's is now serving craft beers. This announcement came just last week (although it really should have come sometime in the mid-'90s), and the chain is now heavily plugging a lineup of such cutting-edge beers as Magic Hat #9 (brewery start date: 1994), New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale (1991), Goose Island Honkers Ale (1988), Abita Amber (1986), Alaskan IPA (1986), Boulevard Wheat (1988) and Uinta Cutthroat Ale (1993).

Most of these beers are fantastic; I was getting plowed as a soybean field on Boulevard Wheat (with a slice of lemon) back in 1998. It's not the beers' fault that since 1965, Friday's has degenerated from an innovative Manhattan singles-bar concept to a cookie-cutter, suburban panacea with crappy lighting and overpriced pre-made bar food today. But degenerate it has: Here are our top five reasons why T.G.I. Friday's isn't cool anymore:

Office Space bird.jpg
They just can't take a joke.
5. Flair went away.
Office Space is a damn funny movie, and so are Mean Girls and Waiting, but being lampooned via film isn't the worst thing in the world, so instead of sucking the fun out of the place and gobbing everything with Jack Daniel's sauce (the stuff comes in a plastic bag and is the opposite of tasty), why didn't Friday's just run with a little self-deprecating humor and let people know it can take a joke instead of turning into one?

4. Are you a f*@#king bar or a restaurant?
T.G.I. Friday's has a pronounced identity crisis that manifests itself in dining rooms filled with families and kids serenely munching on chicken fingers and ranch dressing a few feet away from bars filled with raucous, drunken twenty-somethings downing rainbow-hued shots and watching bartenders toss bottles in the air. For a restaurant/bar purist, it's an interesting model to study in order to determine how corporate chain restaurants found a way to simultaneously cash in on the bar crowd and families -- but it's still a bit disconcerting to shuffle your kiddos to the can and have them witness, en route, exactly what they have to look forward to in college.

TGI vending machine.jpg
A small step away from fast food.

3. Innovation without motivation.
Friday's has obviously been taking innovation lessons from fast-food chains, because recycling the same ingredients into a few new dishes to tout on its still-catalogue-sized menu may be convenient and cost-effective, but in no way screams "NEW AND EXCITING!" And slathering everything in kung pao sauce isn't exactly cutting-edge. A little-known fact about Friday's is that it opened a couple of fast-food spinoff restaurants in the mid- to late '80s called "Fast Friday's" that didn't take off, so the company pulled the plug on the concept in 1988. Or did it?

2. Bagging on the customers.
T.G.I. Friday's uses so much food squeezed out of plastic bags that it's hard to tell its kitchens apart from an experimental nutrition lab at NASA. Instead of trying to take over India, maybe the company should stimulate our home economy by hiring actual cooks to actually cook actual food -- or just take it in the opposite direction and bring the boiled bags to each table with straws, so that patrons can suck their meals rather than discover that the meals are just sucking.

tom_tancredo-warning-sign.jpg
Tom Tacredo is a real charmer.

1. Single-issues dining campaigns.
According to Ricky Richardson, executive vice president and chief concept officer for T.G. I. Friday's (the company is innovative with executive titles, anyway), "Whether our guests are enjoying an entree that has been marinated in a craft beer, like our Black Angus Brew House Steak, or looking to kick back with a cold beer, they can do so at Friday's -- just as they would at a backyard barbecue or summer picnic."

The Friday's attempt to tap into diners' sentimentality by adding a glop of potato salad and slopping beer in and on its regurgitated menu items is a lot like Tom Tancredo's stance on immigration: Both are well-advertised, under-thought and over-financed, and neither concept hits the mark it's aiming for. If people really want to have a backyard barbecue or summer picnic experience, they will just have a barbecue or a picnic -- and inviting Tancredo and feeding him a few brews would be much cheaper entertainment than cramming into a crowded restaurant with ESPN and '90s dance-party hits competing for hearing loss.

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17 comments
theseus_ship
theseus_ship

Nah, pretty sure you fail Tancredo shots are beyond cheap. Nice try, WOHLETZmanfieldberg.

Swb
Swb

 Hey Jenn,  the Friday's check average is $14. Lighten up. They do a remarkable job for what they produce.  You have pretty high expectations for chain restaurants. How many restaurants today have chefs in the kitchen creating their own delicacies for a $14 check.  It's amazing how a scribe on a blog is so critical of anything.  

Just a guy
Just a guy

It is what it is. If you think other chains are different, You are wrong. They have taken a lot of steps to reduce fat and go fresh, however leave it to fat ass Americans to add as much fat as possible to eveything. Try the ribs, made in-house daily, no frozen or pre cooked product. People amaze me, do you want affordable or fresh? As far as the bashing of the JD glaze, people love that crap.

Jennifoodie
Jennifoodie

 Some restaurants don't make you choose between affordable and fresh, and It's not unreasonable to want and expect at least some modicum of fresh product. TGI Friday's has really become expensive, and without the fresh. I don't mind paying a bit more for better food. I like mashed potatoes that are actually made on-site. I miss that house made hot bacon mustard dressing that Friday's used to make in-house, and the potato skins that used to be made in the restaurants. They tasted better. Did that guy really just call me a food snob fag? I knew there was a reason I took up food writing as a career.

MATTRIPVA
MATTRIPVA

DUDE ITS FRIDAYS NOT SPAGO'S FOR CHRIST SAKE CRYBABIES, YOU GO THERE FOR A BEER AND A BURGER DORKS...PLUS I ALWAYS SEE HOT CHICKS THERE, YOU FOOD SNOB FAGS SHOULD STAY THE FUCK OUT 

prufrock
prufrock

Well, you have certainly convinced me! I had no idea that I was so wrong, and homosexual to boot. One can never discount the value of a restaurant by its ability to attract "HOT CHICKS," and your subtle use of all-caps has definitely made me see that now. Plus your illustrative example of citing an icon from the 70s such as "SPAGO'S" as an apt comparator has changed my mind completely. Thank you.

Timothy_mcrae77
Timothy_mcrae77

Other then the Bar/Restaurant identity crisis I have to disagree with almost everything here. All of our food is made from scratch every time. And last year alone we made 5 major changes to our menu. The only thing that is kept in a plastic bag is soup and lets face it, if you eat soup you're a tard anyway. Thanks.

Jennifoodie
Jennifoodie

 No, it's really not. The closest the food gets to scratch is when the cooks scratch and then dump it from the bags. And I didn't say the food was kept in plastic bags, I said the food came out of plastic bags, and what did soup ever do to you? Did it touch you on your swimsuit parts or beat the snot outta you in middle school?

Timothy_mcrae77
Timothy_mcrae77

Do you work for Friday's? I do, and have for almost a decade. We may be lost in the sea of sameness for now but we're moving back to the front. I agree the JD Glaze isn't to my liking but it's enormously popular. And most food is shipped in bags or boxes, its a health code thing don't blame us!

And yes soup violated me. One time, in band camp, it burned my mouth and I had to show the nurse where the bad soup touched me on this little dolly she had. :)

fridays slave
fridays slave

 I currently work for fridays, and the place is a joke, and a lot of the food is shipped to us frozen-not made from scratch.  Case in point: boneless wings- pre-breaded and frozen, potato skins- frozen, green bean fries- pre-breaded and frozen, all of our sauces are shipped to us (except for when we run out of things, which is every week), all of our soups come in bags, even our mashed potatoes come in bags. The only thing that we make is our proteins, but even a lot of those are cooked in the morning, then re-heated at dinner.  The whole guy fieri, two for $20, endless shrimp, and any other ploy to create business, just brings in the cheapest of the cheap.  So many people come in and complain if there $5.99 dinner doesn't look like the picture.  Not to mention they don't tip for a damn.  What ever happen to just having good food and good service to bring in the crowds.

prufrock
prufrock

 Way to keep things classy, Tim. 

Bobpmn
Bobpmn

 Pretty much right on, though late to the party. 

TGIF has been in this mode for over twenty years, and it is startling how it remains profitable. I know from wince-inducing experience, having been a trainer for them for 18 years. The menu-isation of whatever crap was found in the store room is legend, and lampooned perfectly in an Onion article, "Welcome to TGI Friday's; May I annoy the living sh*t out of you" about fifteen years ago.  Honestly, I still shake my head at some of the crazy things that showed up in the 90s.... Shrimp Alfredo with water chestnuts and hoisin? Really...?

In truth, though, Friday's has had "craft beer" for some time. My own Friday's featured the local craft as soon as it was released, in 86. There was also a house brand brewed for them in Iowa in the mid-80s, though the market was not ready or appreciative. 

I do remember, though, that when I started there in 85, of the thirteen salad dressings, only one was bought; the rest were all made in house, daily. The potato skins were made from scratch-- in fact, everything was made from scratch. And the menu changes were three to four time a year, complete with exhausting tests that had to be passed before working a shift. And the bar training was equated to a three-credit college course, and was really the best one could find, anywhere. 

How the mighty have fallen.

GFTW
GFTW

Hmm, I missed the article that said TGIF's was cool in the first place. And you mean Joe Biden rather than Tom Tancredo.

Elizabeth DeHoff
Elizabeth DeHoff

Joe Biden doesn't need any beers to be entertaining. Just ask The Onion.

Gordon Ramsey
Gordon Ramsey

You will never be cool when you use Guy Fieri in your ad campaigns.

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