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Friendly's goes back to the future

The new head of Friendly's is a MA native who took over after two decades with Panera. He was on Boston Public Radio yesterday, discussing the changes Friendly's has made as it comes out of bankruptcy. He said they had identified the major issues behind the downhill slide that culminated in widespread closings in the last year or two: food quality, store cleanliness, personnel training/motivation.
They had expanded their menu too far, into foods they weren't good at making, like stir-fries. So they have cut back their menu to focus on the burgers, supermelts, ice cream, and other things they did well. They are in the process of refurbishing their stores and doing better, more vigilant, training and and continuing education for employees. It sounds like it may be worth trying Friendly's again, if you can find one that's still open.

Bit of trivia: the two brothers who founded the chain are still alive, in their upper 90's, and still in regular contact with the new management.

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  1. Great news if what is envisioned comes to pass. The original Friendly (no 's) could be just the thing when you wanted a certain kind of comfort food meal or just needed an ice cream on a hot summer day. Good memories, those.

    1. We still have one open near us and it always looks busy. My son loves having lunch there, the only meal I will eat there. Any place that doesn't serve booze is no place for dinner!

      1 Reply
      1. A local store opened their remodel a few days ago, and it's pretty terrific. Very clean, very nostalgic, lots of fun touches -- they've embraced their "50s ice cream shop" heritage and the menu is blissfully slim and "just the hits" -- burgers, supermelts, sandwiches, and some salads. Their new hotdogs are pretty excellent -- I got the Italian Grinder dog, and it was a 9" dog on a toasted bun topped with pepperocini, pepperoni, crumbled potato chips, parmesan, and balsamic dressing, and it worked!

        1. Wow, I didn't realize this place is still around at all. I remember my track team chanting for that to be our refuel dinner after a meet when the coach asked what we wanted :D
          I'd love to be able to track one down next time in in the northeast.

          1. I read a similar piece about this on Boston.com and now we are in Western Mass with lots of Friendly's we checked out the one on the Pittsfiled/Lenox line on Rte. 20. It was terrific. The same woman who greeted us, seated us and explained the new menu took and delivered our order. We opted for the throw back cheeseburg between two slices of white toast and cokes. Cooked to order, medium or slightly pink, and delicious. This was no mystery meat with the usual side effects of bloating or nausea I often get from fast food restaurants. The service was terrific and the restaurant was clean and busy. We're going to check out the senior breakfast next trip.

            1. The Friendly's dilemna of whether or not to re-name/re-brand would make a great case for business schools' Marketing classes. Wonder if anyone is writing it up. Without knowing any of the financial details, i would have thought renaming it and starting all over again would be the better way to go, given the devastating image Friendly's has come to have.

              1. Nice to see that Friendly's has finally realized what the problems are. I have been saying this for years. They went off their original plan which was ice cream and sandwiches, plain and simple. The sacrificed quality for price trying to compete with fast food joints and expand their menu options. It just did not work. It is too bad the company had to be virtually distroyed before they realized this. The name Friendly's though could come back and mean something again. The company has a lot of work ahead of itself. I wish them the best.

                1. I can credit Friendly for two things, Reese's Pieces Sundae and their chili. Don't ask me why, but their chili got me as a child and really put me on the path of chili enjoyment I have today. (I think my palate has probably become slightly more sophisticated in the past 30 years, but I do remember really enjoying it as a kid)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    Yes, to the chili. Same here! It was also the first place I ever had a corn muffin and it set me on the road to loving all cornbread type foods. Glad to hear they are back to basics!

                  2. I went to one in Watertown, MA recently - it was a great (and drastically different) experience.

                    1. I used to like the Big Beef Cheeseburger Special on toast, and a scoop for dessert.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Veggo

                        I also used to love that Big Beef Cheseburger....loved that it used to be served on toast instead of a bun. Square burger on square bread.

                        1. re: Science Chick

                          The big beef cheeseburger on toast was what we had at our recent lunch there on Lenox/Pittsfield line and as I reported in the other Friendly revival thread
                          It was excellent, just as good as the ones I ate back in the 70's at the Dedham Mall

                      2. Great to hear they're going to stick with what they're good at. A BBQ chicken Supermelt and a strawberry Fribble are one of my favorite guilty pleasures!

                        1. My only question is where do they find those tiny ice cream scoops?

                          Three scoop sundae - uh huh.....

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Clams047

                            You mean it's problematic that they use an actual traditional ice cream scoop, instead of a hollowed out human skull?

                            1. re: Science Chick

                              It seems to be about 1/3 of the size of scoop I get elsewhere (at a similar price). This past weekend, I was at Uconn dairy where their single scoop was larger, cheaper and significantly better quality vs. the 3-scoop Friendly's portion.

                              In fact, I've found the average Friendly's scoop is at best, the size of a typical child / baby portion sold elsewhere (at a higher price / lower quality).

                              Bottom line, I'm not sure why anyone would ever go to Friendly's for an ice cream. It's not even a decent quality. Last time I bought a carton of their ice cream, I mistakenly left it out on the counter. It never really melted.

                              Also, the last time I was at a Friendly's, I ordered a strawberry milkshake. It came with strawberry flavored syrup and vanilla ice cream. I was told I should have requested strawberry ice cream if I wanted strawberry ice cream in my strawberry milkshake. Yeh --

                              1. re: Science Chick

                                http://tinyurl.com/pycgt5x indicates about 110-130 calories for Friendlys ice creams - I'm assuming that's one scoop.

                                http://tinyurl.com/pm4d3ot shows about 250 - 400 calories for competitive average scoops (Cold Stone, Haagan Dazs & Baskin Robins).

                                Unless Friendly's has some very low calorie ice cream (which I very much doubt), their average scoop size seems to be quite small vs. three of their competitors. Furthermore the few times I've had an ice cream at Friendly's, I didn't find them erring on the high end.

                                  1. re: carolinadawg

                                    It's like having a Moxie. About every five years or so, I drop in to see if its as bad as I remember. It always meets my expectations.

                                      1. re: Clams047

                                        The sundae I had at one of the newly renovated locations was a nice improvement on the old ones. Big scoops.

                                        Although, for the record, I enjoy Moxie.