Friendly’s has revamped its menu with about three dozen new items as the family-dining chain seeks to rebound from years of struggle.

The restaurant has added lighter fare such as salads and wraps, as well as new kid-friendly items, ice creams, burgers and even fish tacos. The new menu, which rolled out Jan. 13, was a move to improve food quality in general, increase offerings in areas where Friendly’s already had credibility, and stay relevant to customers with items that fit their tastes, chief executive John Maguire said. Friendly’s team also researched areas in which it had culinary credibility, he said, including burgers, melts and fried seafood.

A chain analysis of customer habits found that Friendly’s competes not only with other family-dining restaurants, but quick-service and casual-dining restaurants as well.

Maguire, who joined Friendly’s in June 2012 after serving as Panera Bread’s chief operating officer, said Friendly’s customers went to traditional family-dining competitors such as Denny’s, IHOP and Cracker Barrel for breakfast, but placed Friendly’s in the same category as casual-dining chains such as Friday’s, Applebee’s and Chili’s for lunch and dinner. For ice cream, Friendly’s competed with quick-service chains such as Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery.

The chain also has upgraded its coffee, moving to higher quality beans and implementing quality control and equipment maintenance standards. Additionally, instead of delivering carafes of coffee to tables, servers now pour individual cups and return to tables for refills, not only improving the quality of the coffee, but increasing the number of table touches, Maguire said.

Red Velvet Waffles topped with strawberries and whipped cream

Friendly’s, which is controlled by Sun Capital Partners Inc., exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2012 after closing dozens of locations. Friendly’s told Nation’s Restaurant News that systemwide sales for the year ended in December 2012 fell 19.37 percent to $451.2 million. The operator hasn’t yet reported 2013 results, but Maguire said, “We’ve made progress in a number of areas,” including rehiring and retraining staff and remodeling 40 restaurants in 2013. Another 50 to 70 company-owned and franchised units are slated to be remodeled in 2014, and in the first quarter of 2014 the company would announce the opening of “a few new units” later in the year, he said.

Breakfast gets an update

New breakfast items include oatmeal and yogurt, two of the top three most popular menu items nationwide at breakfast.

Steel-cut oatmeal is available with optional mix-ins such as dried fruit, walnuts, brown sugar and toasted almonds, and priced at $4.79. A non-fat Greek-style strawberry yogurt is served in a parfait with fruit and granola, and priced at $4.29. Friendly’s has also introduced bigger pancakes and thicker toast.

Other new breakfast items include:

• Bananas Foster Pancakes: Pancakes topped with sliced bananas and brown sugar caramel sauce, priced at $6.99 to $7.99, depending on the location

• Brioche French Toast: Three slices of French toast topped with whipped cream, priced at $6.49 to $6.79

• Red Velvet Waffles: Topped with strawberries and whipped cream, priced at $7.49 to $7.59

• Eggs Benedict: Priced at $8.29 to $8.99

• Philly Steak & Cheese on an Everything Bagel: Shaved grilled rib-eye steak with melted American cheese and two extra-large fried eggs, priced at $6.99 to $7.49

• Chorizo Scrambler: Scrambled eggs with chorizo, Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, priced at $7.49 to $7.99.

For lunch and dinner, hamburgers are now made with never-frozen meat. By using fresh patties, customers can specify their preferred doneness for burgers, Maguire said.

The chain has upgraded the fish used in its signature Fishamajig sandwich from Atlantic pollock to haddock. Additionally, soups are also served in larger sizes, the lettuce mix has been upgraded, and Friendly’s 6-inch “Friendly Frank” has been replaced by 9-inch beef hot dogs with all-natural casing.