Wedging a cheeseburger between two grilled cheese sandwiches to make one 1,500-calorie monster sandwich is a bold move, but not enough to keep your restaurant out of bankruptcy.
Even the Grilled Cheese Burger Melt wasn't enough to help Friendly's hang with casual dining heavyweights such as the Cheesecake Factory (CAKE - Get Report), Texas Roadhouse (TXRH - Get Report), Red Robin (RRGB - Get Report), Olive Garden (DRI - Get Report), Ruby Tuesday's (RT - Get Report), Chili's (EAT - Get Report), P.F. Chang's (PFCB) and Applebee's (DINE). The chain filed for bankruptcy in October and closed 63 of its more than 500 stores when $700 million in systemwide sales weren't enough to keep the franchise out of debt.
If this is a bit of a head scratcher for Friendly's faithful who love themselves a Fribble and think the $5 food-and-ice-cream combo deal is the best thing on earth, chances are they haven't been exposed to the onion blossoms, drink concoctions and walls and uniforms full of flair that have dominated the casual dining scene for more than a decade.The Cheesecake Factory's menu is roughly the size of your car's instruction manual. Red Robin's burgers are the equivalent of small cattle. The Olive Garden's breadsticks? Still bottomless. It's not the size of a Texas Roadhouse steak or the volume of Red Lobster's all-you-can-eat shrimp that are drowning Friendly's -- it's the drink menus. What Friendly's never banked on when it debuted in 1935 and never caught on to as the decades wore on is that the definition of "family-friendly" dining has expanded to include the occasional Bahama Mama or giant glass of beer. It also requires a few high-definition televisions at the bar for when parents want to see how their fantasy league players are doing. Friendly's still allows you to remove the divider between your table and the one next to you, but casual dining customers want more features -- including stability.