Popular restaurant chain abruptly shuts down many locations

While the pandemic-related wave of restaurant closures now largely appears to be behind us, even the most well-known establishments are not immune from the ebbs and flows of demand and popularity.

At the end of December, rotisserie chicken fast casual chain Boston Market filed for bankruptcy protection after what was once a large nationwide chain with over 1,200 locations slipped to just 300 stores by the end of 2023. A few months earlier, Burger King operator Meridian Restaurants also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while naming slow sales and high costs of running business as the primary reason.

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While there is not yet any news of bankruptcy plans, some fans of the American-style casual dining chain TGI Fridays unexpectedly found their neighborhood location shut down. On Jan. 3, the chain announced that it was closing 36 of its “underperforming locations” across the country as “part of the brand’s ongoing growth strategy.”

A photo captures the entrance to a renovated TGI Fridays location.

Some TGI Friday stores sold, others closed permanently

The reworking in question also involves selling eight TGI Fridays restaurants in the Northeast to Ray Blanchette, who was the chain’s CEO from 2018 to May 2023 and currently leads a hospitality chain he founded.

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“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’ president and chief operating officer, said in a press 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.”

Chain hopes to craft new future ‘at the helm of a pivotal moment’

Some of the states with closed locations include Texas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Virginia and Colorado — with the two locations in Denver and Longmont shuttered, the latter now has no TGI Fridays locations at all. TGI Fridays also said that 80% of the 1,000 employees who have been affected by the closures were offered opportunities to transfer to other locations.

The chain expects Blanchette, who purchased the eight restaurants in the Northeast for an unspecified price, to “lead the locations into a new phase of revitalization.” As the chain is privately owned with a majority stake from private equity firm TriArtisan Capital Advisors, details around its financial performance are not public but TGI Fridays has seen significant instability over the last year.

When he stepped down as chief executive in May, Blanchette passed on the helm to TriArtisan Capital’s co-founder Rohit Manocha who handed it over to Brandon Coleman III by August. The latter also resigned after two months for “personal reasons.”

“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,” current chief executive Weldon 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.”

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