Carlson, the Minneapolis-based parent company of the TGI Fridays casual-dining chain, said late Friday it is undertaking a corporate review of strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the restaurant brand.
The nearly 50-year-old Fridays operates about 920 restaurants in more than 60 countries and is known for, among other things, the invention of the Long Island Iced Tea and popularizing “happy hour” promotions. The chain led a category-wide trend toward smaller portioned menu items and lower price points with the 2007 introduction of the Right Portion, Right Price menu, which was made permanent in 2008.
“Capitalizing on Fridays’ strong marketplace momentum, the [Carlson] board has determined that this is the optimum time to assess its options for the iconic restaurant brand, including a possible sale,” Trudy Rautio, Carlson’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.
The Carlson board of directors selected Piper Jaffray to serve as its financial advisor. In addition to Fridays, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group includes more than 1,300 hotels in operation and development, and Carlson holds a majority stake in Carlson Wagonlit Travel.
Carlson said TGI Fridays’ same-store sales performance recently has exceeded the average performance for the casual-dining category. Carlson added that a recent restaurant reimaging initiative would complete the remodel of more than 60 company-owned restaurants and had produced an average sales lift of 10 percent.
The brand’s international system has been delivering sales and unit growth including category-leading same-store sales in the United Kingdom for four consecutive years, Carlson said. The company added that same-store sales and unit counts continue to grow in China.
“This is an exciting time for Fridays restaurants worldwide and for our employees,” brand president and chief executive Nick Shepherd said in a statement. “For the past several years, Carlson has invested heavily in the business to refresh the brand, coupled with aggressive actions within the corporate structure to contain costs.
“In support of our brand promise, ‘In here, it’s always Friday,’ we are uniquely positioned as the best casual-dining bar in our category, which enables us to deliver strong results for our owners,” he said.
In the latest Nation’s Restaurant Newsreport, research showed the brand’s estimated sales per unit at $3.31 million in its latest fiscal year, a 2.3-percent increase over $3.23 million in its preceding fiscal year. Fridays is the seventh largest casual-dining restaurant chain in the NRN Top 100, with estimated U.S. systemwide sales of $1.8 billion in 2012. TGI Fridays is based in Carrollton, Texas.
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