The TGI Fridays you know—the dark wood bar with tchotchkes on the walls and endless appetizers in the toilets—is testing an aggressive, millennial-friendly makeover in a new location in Corpus Christi. As Adweek reports, after being sold to a private equity firm for $800 million in 2014, the sit-down restaurant is rebranding as a hip, fast-casual spot: Fridays.
Well, it’s trying.
The interior design has gotten a bleach blonde makeover, with all that heavy brown furniture replaced by midcentury-inspired shared tables in walnuts and pines. It’s an aesthetic that almost works, except, are those bistro chairs I see in the background, too? And what’s with those upholstered booths that look straight out of a budget motel chain lobby? It's too many ideas to match, but not nearly enough to feel bohemian. And ugh, that stone-colored tile floor—it looks borderline clinical, doesn't it? Why didn’t they just leave the floor as polished concrete? That would have looked fine alongside the painted black brick walls and exposed, white ceilings. At least it wouldn’t have screamed "get that STD test, kid" like some mimosa-spewing MinuteClinic.
That said, I sort of get the broader idea: Create a vibe that doesn’t feel so committed to Office Space-ian table service. Give the servers iPads. Give the kids Wi-Fi. Offer a grab-and-go selection of juices and salads like Starbucks, or one of those weird Chili’s you see at the airport. And for those who are looking for some hair of the dog to stave off last night’s hangover, welcome them without judgement. Offer a "Hangover Brunch" on Saturdays and Sundays, complete with an optional "Bucket of Bacon." (In case of emergencies, the bucket can double to contain any and all unanticipated bodily fluids.)
We can be snarky, and this design certainly isn't perfect in its execution. But it’s not like TGI Fridays was sitting on some gold standard of invigorating, youthful hospitality. A TGI Fridays spokesperson—I’m sorry, that’s "Fridays spokesperson," I guess—tells AdWeek that initial sales are going well, and so we can expect to see more Fridays in the wild soon. Sure, why not? It couldn't be much worse.
Keep in mind that while fast casual has taken the U.S. by storm, it might not be the infallible new model of dining the industry hopes. When Taco Bell attempted to upsell us on U.S. Taco Co., it failed, and closed the experiment. Meanwhile, Chipotle is going to offer the public free burritos to following its food safety scare. And so the answer to TGI Fridays and its aging peers might not be as simple as cranking down the formality and turning up the table turnover. They may have to, you know, stop serving such lousy food, too.
All Images: TGI Friday's via TGI Fridays Corpus Christi