Friendly’s is in trouble


An article from gets a lot of details wrong (no longer active, concerning Friendly’s closing some stores).

Oh sure… it’s got the main details in there, and most of those seem to be accurate. It’s facing bankruptcy and closing stores. But it says that the restaurants couldn’t keep up with changing times… and while the casual observer may find that to be true, I would contend that changing is exactly what is spelling doom for the franchise.

As the article says, Friendly’s was “the ideal place for New England families to share meals built around hamburgers and ice cream sundaes.” I recall going there with my grandmother. It became almost a tradition of sorts, following school events and other low-key celebrations, to celebrate with a sundae or such. The restaurant we went to… along with her and my parents, sisters, and other members of the family… is one of the locations being closed.

And then the mozzarella sticks came.

Head in to an In-N-Out burger and find the extreme and diverse menu offerings. Or try it at Five Guys. Or don’t... the menus aren’t all that vast. They focus on hamburgers, hamburgers and hamburgers, with very few alternatives. In New Haven, the legendary Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria serves… I know, stunning… pizza. (Well, that’s not exactly true. Pepe’s also has a house salad.)

The problem with Friendly’s today is that it doesn’t do anything great. It tries to do too much, and most of it not that well. It has changed from what made it successful. As a result, I would argue that they didn’t need to catch up with changing times… Friendly’s needed to continue being the place for a great ice cream sundae and lost their way to doing that.

Simply put… when you are famous for ice cream, chances are executive meetings shouldn’t have agenda points concerning mozzarella stick portion size.

If you look at the menu today, I would argue that pretty much only the Fribble remains. Sure… you might find a couple of other items. But the idea is sound.

Even the ice cream menu is filled with a gazillion mix-in styles and combo-sundae charts and brand advertising (ice cream for column a, two toppings from column b, and a per-item-charge for extras, this sundae brought to you by Hershey’s). Hey… I love Hershey’s. In this case though, the Fribble and Jim Dandy were legends… and now they’re back page options behind waffle fries and turkey clubs.

Seriously… waffle fries. Who goes to Friendly’s for loaded waffle fries? (Ok… ok… hold on before you answer, because it gets better.)

Chicken quesadillas.


Those are on the menu.

Now… quick… for those of you that frequented or have special thoughts of Friendly’s from any point in your life… how many of those memories involve waffle fries? In fact, if I mention waffle fries, chicken quesadillas and mozzarella sticks, are you thinking Friendly’s?

It was “the ideal place for New England families to share meals built around hamburgers and ice cream sundaes” and I would contend not so hot a place for turkey and Reuben and cheddar jack supermelts. (Regardless of how they taste.)

It’s confusing. And… sorry to say… it’s not as much fun.

I’m sorry to hear about Friendly’s closing restaurants… and a part of my childhood is quite sad today. But I’m not surprised. This train has been heading off the tracks for quite some time.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at