The CEO said the brand is on the 'path of transformation to revitalize the Fridays brand.'

TGI Fridays announced Wednesday that it will close 36 underperforming U.S. restaurants as the brand attempts to optimize operations.

The chain said the stores are in “select markets across the U.S.” As part of the shutdowns, TGI Fridays is offering 1,000 employee transfer opportunities, which represents more than 80 percent of those impacted.

“Our top priority has always been delivering a superior experience for each and every TGI Fridays guest, and we’ve identified opportunities to optimize and streamline our operations to ensure we are best positioned to meet – and exceed – on that brand promise,” Ray Risley, TGI Fridays U.S. president and COO, said in a statement. “By strengthening our franchise model and closing underperforming stores, we are creating an unprecedented opportunity for Fridays to drive forward its vision for the future.” 

TGI Fridays also noted that it sold eight company-owned stores to former CEO Ray Blanchette.

The development updates come after a handful of changes in the C-suite. In August, former CMO and U.S. president Brandon Coleman III was promoted to CEO, only to step down two months later. TGI Fridays said the executive resigned for personal reasons. He was replaced by Weldon Spangler, who has served as a board member since September 2019 and has experience from Taco Bell, Starbucks, Dunkin’, Papa Murphy’s, and Subway. In December, the brand hired Risley as U.S. president and COO and Nik Rupp as president of international markets and CFO.

“As we continue along our path of transformation to revitalize the Fridays brand and implement a long-term growth strategy, we see a bright future for TGI Fridays,” Spangler said in a statement. “We are at the helm of a pivotal moment that will allow us to explore boundless advancement, expansion, and innovation to keep delivering ‘That Fridays Feeling’ that our fans know and love.”

TGI Fridays has almost 700 restaurants globally in 51 countries. In 2022, the company earned $1.6 billion in systemwide sales, and U.S. comps lifted 8 percent compared to 2019. In September 2021, the brand announced it signed the biggest franchising agreement in company history with 75 restaurants under commitment in South and Southeast Asia over the next decade. The deal is expected to bring another $500 million in revenue.

In November 2019, Allegro, a special purpose acquisition company, struck a $380 million merger deal with TGI Fridays with the intention of taking the restaurant chain public. This agreement fell apart in the spring of 2020, as the uncertainties stemming from the COVID pandemic disrupted the plans.

Prior to this merger endeavor, TGI Fridays had been actively pursuing a series of strategies aimed at revitalizing its business. These initiatives encompassed the appointment of Blanchette as CEO, the acquisition of additional franchises, changes in leadership at various operational and managerial levels, an intensified focus on enhancing the bar experience, offering unique value propositions, expanding off-premises dining options, and the implementation of loyalty programs for both customers and employees.

In 2014, Carlson Restaurants successfully sold TGI Fridays to TriArtisan Capital and Sentinel Partners for a considerable sum exceeding $800 million. Since its merger with Carlson three decades ago, the chain has remained privately held.

Chain Restaurants, Feature