Michel says one of the first components of his turnaround plan revolves around “right sizing the menu, focusing on new menu items and dietary needs.” Millennials don’t dine out by brand, but by menu items, asking questions, such as, “Where can I get a gluten-free meal?” he says.
Friendly’s new menu has two sides: one for indulgent items and the other for under 700-calories healthier choices. In the latter side, Friendly’s now offers turkey, grilled fish, and salads. Fried foods and burgers highlight the indulgent area. The brand also increased portion size for many entrees to make eating at Friendly’s more value-oriented. And then there’s always ice cream, a Friendly’s mainstay.
Shrinking the number of locations was necessary because too many outposts were “paying way above market rents and the ones we closed were losing money and we were supporting them,” Michel says. Since it didn’t own any of the locations it closed, it required negotiating with the landlords to terminate the lease.
Emphasizing delivery and using third-party vendors like DoorDash and Uber Eats has been another tactic to boost business. Michel says the younger generation often returns home late from work, doesn’t prefer to cook, and instead opts for an app to order delivery to their door pronto. Currently deliveries constitute about 5 percent of sales, but 80 percent of delivery entails new customers and Michel thinks that revenue could spike to 10–15 percent in the next few years.
Friendly’s delivery has a competitive edge over the prepared meals served at Kroger’s, Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s, Michel says. “Our food is prepared fresh, but when you go the grocery store, you don’t know when the food was prepared. Who wants to buy a fresh rotisserie chicken heated under a heat lamp?” he says.