Mon, Nov 01, 2004 - Page 10 News List

TGI Friday's launches new look with its latest outlet

YOUNGER LOOK The restaurant chain has shifted its decor forward a few decades -- from turn of the 20th century to the 1960s and 1980s -- to widen its client base

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

To inject a new image into its 40-year-old decor famous for memorabilia and stripped tablecloths, TGI Friday's is going through a large-scale face-lift with Asia's first "second-generation" outlet inaugurated in Taipei last Thursday.

In the new restaurant, gone are the wooden floors, imitation Tiffany lamps, bentwood chairs, red-and-white striped tablecloths and numerous pieces of turn-of-the-20th century memorabilia on the walls.

Instead, the restaurant is much lighter, with wide windows on one side and colorful memorabilia dotted from the 1960s onwards. Brass has been replaced by stainless steel.

"The brand is 40 years old. As our customers evolve over time, we want to evolve as well," Jeff Warne, executive vice president of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, the parent company of TGI Friday's (Taiwan) Inc, told the Taipei Times last Thursday after launching the new outlet in downtown Taipei.

"This modern design will be the future look of all TGI Friday's around the world," Warne said, adding that over the next three to five years, all 800 outlets will be remodeled to give the same contemporary and lively tone characterized by a 1960s to 1980s feel.

TGI Friday's entered Taiwan in 1991 and now has 10 outlets here. Carlson took over TGI Friday's in the third quarter of last year and turned the local chain into 100 percent company-owned firm.

Carlson started mulling over the renovation idea five years ago. Following three years of market tests and adjustment, the decor style developed by Scandinavian architects was finalized last year.

With 15 US outlets being remodeled last year and 62 more this year, Warne said the company has had positive consumer response in the US and most importantly, "revenues in these new-look restaurants are growing 7 percent," which he said is a strong showing as generally it would be amazing enough for a dining place to see 1 percent growth in annual sales.

The changes in lighting, decorations and seating are aimed at one thing -- building more relevance between the brand and younger generations.

"Since most of our customers have become parents, we are hoping that when they bring kids here, their kids will also be able to find something that's related to them," said Jean Jacquemetton, vice president of Carlson's international

development.

But a strategy targeting both middle-aged and younger customers is one thing, while changing interior designs is another, said a customer who was less-than-impressed with the new look.

"I don't feel its original spirit anymore. It has become no different than other restaurants," said the 38-year old Mini Lee (李美容), as she looked around the brightly lit place lunchtime Thursday.

Lee said TGI Friday's had created a strong impression in her mind -- of someplace cozy, warm and a bit dark, with enthusiastic waiters and waitresses jumping around to attend to customers.

"Now the whole design seems a bit cold," she said.

Warne and his management team, however, are confident about the new design, projecting revenue will grow by double digits to NT$600 million (US$17.9 million) this year. The local subsidiary reported profits in the first quarter of this year following eight straight years of losses.

Carlson plans to launch another "second-generation" TGI Friday's in the Miramar Entertainment Park (美麗華百樂園) in the Dazhi district later this month and a free-standing one in Taichung next May.

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