By TAYLOR HARTZ
Friendly’s is planning to make a comeback in greater Hartford this year, and customers can expect as many changes inside as they are seeing outside.
Restaurants in Southington, Bristol, and Plainville have all been remodeled in recent months, showing off new signs, fresh paint, and brighter exteriors. Inside their dining rooms customers can expect a whole new experience; one that is true to the name.
“The problem with Friendly’s is the people aren’t friendly,” said CEO John Maguire, but he can assure Connecticut customers that the problem is changing.
When Maguire started with Friendly’s in 2012, he dove into researching why employees and customers were unhappy with the Friendly’s experience. What he found was that employees were not polite, food quality was poor, and service was slow.
To fix these problems, they adopted a plan to solve the issues from the inside out.
The company chose to invest in their people first, said Maguire, initiating what they called “a people evolution.” Their efforts began with restructuring their training program and weeding out employees who just simply weren’t friendly.
With a promising staff remaining, new programs were established to train employees on the necessary skills for excellent customer service. The company also made adjustments to their staffing, ensuring that more employees will be on the floor in order to improve the speed and quality of service.
The next step was to insure that their newly trained servers were serving quality food. They returned to serving real ice cream, improved their stock of fresh fish and meats, and updated their kitchen equipment.
While still keeping its classic, all-American look, the restaurants’ exteriors have been undergoing major renovations. Each location has had their exterior redesigned, and much of their interiors were gutted and remodeled with new carpeting, new tables and chairs, freshly painted walls, and updated artwork.
Press material sent on behalf of Friendly’s said, “We know it will take time to earn back business from disappointed customers.”
As a top market, with more than 20 stores in the area, Hartford is a top market for gaining back business.
However, Maguire said he has not focused on financial strategy or marketing their renovations in the community. “None of that matters if someone comes in and doesn’t have a good experience,” said the CEO, “what really matters is great food, great people, and an engaged environment.”
So far, their efforts have succeeded. Friendly’s has seen not only a jump in sales, but a large increase in the number of people coming to Friendly’s compared to this time last year.
“The truth was we stopped taking care of guests that we should have been taking care of,” said Maguire, who hopes greater Hartford residents will give Friendly’s a second chance. “We’ve gone back to our foundation” he said, the foundation of being Friendly.