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.
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.
The rest of the new menu
New lunch and dinner menu items include:
• Buffalo Wings: Served with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing, priced at $9.99
• Cheeseburger Sliders: Three sliders topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickle chips and a Roasted Red Pepper Garlic dipping sauce, priced at $7.99 to $8.69
• Spinach Salad: With sliced egg; mushrooms; applewood-smoked bacon; red onions; grape tomatoes; ciabatta croutons; and a choice of grilled chicken, turkey tips or salmon, priced at $9.99 to $10.29
• Turkey Tip Avocado Salad: With grilled turkey tips, applewood-smoked bacon, sliced avocado, grape tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles, priced at $9.99 to $10.29
• Burger Salad: A burger patty on mixed greens, bacon, Fronions onion crisps, grape tomatoes, and Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, priced at $8.99 to $9.79
• Crispy Chipotle Ranch SuperMelt: Breaded chicken tenders with chipotle ranch dressing, melted Cheddar cheese and applewood-smoked bacon, served on sourdough bread, priced at $8.79 to $8.99
• Philly Steak & Cheese SuperMelt: Shaved rib eye mixed with melted American cheese, green peppers and sautéed onions, served on grilled honey-dill rye bread, priced at $8.99 to $9.39
• Salmon: Seasoned, grilled and served on roasted potatoes, onions and peppers with an optional Hollandaise drizzle, priced at $12.99 $13.49
• Turkey Tips: Grilled and served with broccoli and rice pilaf with a choice of barbecue or teriyaki sauce, priced at $10.99 to $11.59
• Meatloaf: Grilled and served in a ketchup glaze with mashed potatoes and corn, priced at $9.99 to $10.59
• Chicken Parmesan: Served on garlic-and-herb vegetable pasta, priced at $9.99 to $10.59
• Fish Tacos: Battered cod fillets with Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, cabbage, chipotle sauce, cilantro and tortilla strips, served with Spanish rice, sour cream, salsa and a lime wedge, priced at $9.99
•Mac & Cheese: Penne mixed with prosciutto and topped with a crouton crumble, served with a side salad, priced at $9.99 to $10.49
• Bacon Cheeseburger: Served on a grilled brioche roll, priced at $8.99-$9.29
• All American Burger: Served with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayonnaise on a brioche roll, priced at $7.49 to $8.49
•Swiss Mushroom Burger: Priced at $8.99 to $9.29
• Chicken Spinach Wrap: Grilled chicken, baby spinach, applewood-smoked bacon, hard-boiled egg wedges, mushrooms, red onions, diced tomatoes and bacon dressing, served in a whole wheat wrap, priced at $9.99 to $10.29
• Turkey Avocado Wrap: With grilled turkey tips, lettuce, applewood-smoked bacon, diced avocado, diced tomato, blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing, served in a whole wheat wrap, priced at $9.99 to $10.29
• Friendly’s Chili Dog: A 9-inch beef hot dog with diced onions, chili Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses, and tortilla strips, priced at $7.99
• Friendly’s All-American Dog: A 9-inch beef hot dog with mustard, relish and red onions, priced at $7.49.
On the kids’ breakfast menu are a Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie; strawberry Yogurt Parfait with a choice of M&Ms, fruit or granola; and Oatmeal with Oreos, oatmeal sprinkled with Oreo cookies.
For lunch and dinner, kids can drink Sharks in the Water, made with blue raspberry Sprite filled with gummy sharks and a side of red syrup dubbed “shark bait.”
A new kids’ dessert is Worms in the Dirt, chocolate ice cream layered with gummy worms, Oreo crumbs and whipped topping, with a cherry on top.
Additionally, there are three new kids’ entrees:
• Turkey Tips: Served with broccoli, apple slices and honey-mustard dipping sauce
• Turkey Sandwich with Goldfish Bread: Roasted deli turkey, lettuce and tomato served on honey wheat Goldfish bread with a side of apple slices
• Build Your Own Mac & Cheese: With choices of bacon, tortilla strips and shredded cheese.
New sides of fruit mixes, apples and carrots have also been added to the kids’ menu.
For dessert, Fribbles, the chain’s signature milk shakes, are now made with ice cream instead of soft serve. Other new sweets include:
• Forbidden Fudge Brownie: Made with Forbidden Chocolate ice cream with brownie chunks, hot fudge, Swiss Chocolate and sprinkles
• Caramel Fudge Brownie Sundae: A warm brownie covered with two scoops of vanilla and one scoop of Forbidden Chocolate ice cream, hot fudge, caramel and whipped topping.
A new limited-time ice cream flavor, Toasted Marshmallow Peanut Butter Supreme, has also been added. The ice cream features toasted marshmallow ice cream mixed with chopped peanut butter cups and swirls of toffee ripple.