Family dining operator Friendly’s Ice Cream LLC has named Steven C. Weigel executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Weigel, who succeeds Jim Parrish, will report directly to chief executive John Maguire.

He joins Friendly’s from Tom’s Urban 24, the Denver-based casual-dining concept opened last year by Tom Ryan, the founder of the fast-casual Smashburger chain.

As chief operating officer at Tom’s, Weigel oversaw strategy, including building brand awareness, identifying market opportunities, increasing market share and establishing procedures and operating systems that boosted sales, profit and operational performance.

Before joining Tom’s, Weigel served as senior vice president at Smashburger, where he was responsible for restaurant operations.

In addition, Weigel spent more than 20 years with Darden Restaurants Inc.’s Red Lobster chain, where he headed up efforts to increase sales and manage costs. While there, he focused on developing a strong operations team that helped to revitalize the casual-dining brand’s operating standards and restaurant design.

Commenting on the appointment, Maguire said Weigel’s “focus and past success on increasing sales and improving guest service will serve Friendly’s well. Steve’s experience in casual dining will be extremely helpful to us as we continue to reposition the brand.”

Like other players in the family-dining segment, Friendly’s continues to wrestle with lackluster sales. According to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 100 annual report, Friendly’s posted U.S. systemwide sales of $451.2 million for the year ended December 2012, a 19-percent decrease from $559.6 million in the preceding year.

The chain also closed 46 locations in 2012, finishing the year 365 units.

In an interview late last year, Maguire discussed plans to reposition the 78-year-old brand by moving closer to its roots, “which begin and end with great ice cream. We’ll also focus on our core products that we have credibility with — burgers, melts, fried fish, French Fries and shakes.”

He also said the chain had plans to simplify the menu and improve food quality, invest in training and focus on the physical plant.”  

Contact Paul Frumkin at paul.frumkin@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @NRNPaul