Friendly's provided a sneak peak of the fast casual in October. CEO Craig Erlich said the company repositioned a restaurant in the Westfield community and found better use of real estate.
A number of full-service brands have opened fast-casual versions of themselves in an effort to improve ROI, create flexibility, and lean into the growth of off-premises. Some notable examples include Flip'd (IHOP), Hoots Wings (Hooters), Buffalo Wild Wings Go, P.F. Chang's To Go, Fridays on the Fly (TGI Fridays), and bushi by JINYA (JINYA Ramen Bar).
The fast casual is a big part of Friendly's overall turnaround strategy, which includes menu innovation, digital channels, local store marketing, ghost kitchens, and co-branding. The executive team received a boost, as well, with the onboarding of David Ellis as chief marketing officer, Sylvia Becker as vice president of marketing, and Roberto De Angelis as chief experience officer.
The classic chain once numbered 850 stores 30 years ago, but has since fallen to about 130. When Sun Capital Partners purchased the chain in 2007 for $337.2 million, there were 515 locations. Nearly three years ago, the brand operated 173 locations.
Friendly's filed bankruptcy in November 2020, and was purchased for $2 million by Amici Partners Group, which is affiliated with Smoothie Factory and RedBrick Pizza parent BRIX Holdings.