TGI Fridays at 25: Culture of service keeps restaurant chain going

Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Oct 27 2019 06:09 PM

MANILA -- Since TGI Fridays opened in Manila in 1994, the American restaurant chain has flourished in the local restaurant sector.

This year, specifically on December 11, the restaurant will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in the Philippines -- a huge achievement considering that not a lot of foreign restaurant brands succeed in the local industry.

In those 25 years, TGI Fridays, (operated by The Bistro Group) was able to open 25 restaurants all over the country, from its first branch at Glorietta 3 in Makati to its newest branch at Island Central Mactan in Cebu.

So what's the secret behind the continued success?

Every purchase of Bucket of Bones, a portion goes to supporting Action Against Hunger. Handout

“The guest experience really remains the key focus. You don't lose on that. The customers are the ones who talk about your brand. So, focus on training, investing on people, that obsessive passion to keep on improving, we make sure it's not lost,” explained The Bistro Group vice president for marketing Lisa Ronquillo.

“We're happy to say that we have a strong culture. Our culture goes beyond business. There's a personal relationship within the people in the organization. Whether you're a server or a vice president, there's really no hierarchy,” she added.

The Bistro Group is no stranger to running international chains. TGI Fridays is arguably its most successful brand but the group also operates Texas Roadhouse, Red Lobster, Hard Rock Cafe, Denny's and Buffalo Wild Wings, just to name a few.

Another reason for the success is the continued development within the business. The restaurant tries to be relevant in a market that is continuously shifting. Recently, the chain has renovated its restaurants to look more modern and young.

“I think it's also because we never miss to learn, we never miss to improve and to develop what we have to compete in the growing restaurant industry. We also continue to innovate in all aspects of the business like food trends, drink trend, even design,” said TGI Fridays vice president for operations Rechele Tiongson.

Prime Rib Eye Steak is one of the new dishes for the restaurant chain's 25th anniversary. Handout

To kick-off its 25th anniversary, the restaurant introduced new premium dishes. These include a plate of 16 oz USDA Prime Rib Eye Steak with mango chipotle coleslaw and choice of mashed potato or truffle rice; Truffle Pasta is a platter of black pasta with smoked bacon and fennel sausage; and Bucket of Bones, a huge tray of signature pork ribs, chicken wings, pork chops, and sides of mac and cheese, garlic rice, and fries.

The Bucket of Bones is also one of the selected items for Action Against Hunger. Every purchase of the dish, a portion goes to supporting the movement against hunger and malnutrition in the Philippines.

The new dishes is also reflective of what the restaurant has become known for, big portions.

“We're detailed with the operations and we are strict in following international standards. From the quality of food and service, we make sure that we have the same here in the Philippines,” Tiongson said.

Despite being in the industry for a long time, the restaurant still attracts a young customer base. That is why they try to innovate all the time.

“Fridays has a young guest profile, from mid 20s to the mid 30s. Back then the design of Fridays was vintage, it was relevant during those times to the young market. But if you keep that now, the younger people, they cannot relate. If we did not change that we might lose those people,” Ronquillo said.

“You cannot rest on your laurels. It's the connection to your guest if they don't feel that it's easy to shift because there's a lot of options.”

Truffle Pasta is one of the new dishes for the restaurant chain's 25th anniversary. Handout

One of the best things that happened in the restaurant industry is the rise of food delivery services. TGI Fridays has benefited from this growth. As a brand, however, dine-in customers is still its core market.
 
“It's not a replacement, for us it's an added revenue. Dining-in is still a fun element, people still go for hanging around over good food,” Ronquillo said.

On the day of the anniversary, on December 11, 2019, at exactly 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., TGI Fridays will give away its famous Chili Ball Park Nachos per table for free. And each guest will get his/her choice of drink also for free. This will happen at all TGI Fridays branches nationwide.

A new branch will also open soon at the newly opened Ayala Mall Manila Bay.