10 June, 2019
The Real Reason TGI Friday’s Is Struggling
The first TGI Fridays, located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, wasn’t a family restaurant at all. It was a wildly popular singles bar created by a young man with zero restaurant experience. Alan Stillman opened the bar when he realized that young adults in 1970s Manhattan could only meet at organized cocktail parties. Bars and public houses at the time were the dominion of beer-swilling men.
While designing a place where young ladies would be comfortable having a cocktail with friends, he added reasonably priced food to the menu to keep customers coming through the doors. And they did. Lines soon formed around the block, and Stillman hired doormen to handle the eager crowds. The bartenders became sought-after mini-celebs. Stillman claims he was the inspiration for Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Cocktail.
The phenomenon drew franchisees who were eager to recreate the excitement in their own cities. Stillman reports that it was the expansion to Southern towns that saw the bar morph into a family restaurant. He says,
“That was the big change. It took six or seven years, but TGI Friday’s became a very different animal.”