Some regulars say they don't like TGIF's new look because it's not as cozy as it used to be. Another negative comment is that it looks like it's been "McDonaldized," with its fake plastic memorabilia, poster-color walls and brighter lighting.
But there are two sides to a coin and TGIF's revamp was designed to appeal to a younger crowd. Compared with the previous outlet in Ximending, there's a lot more space at the new branch on Ermei Street and, as a result, it is less claustrophobic and has the impression of being cleaner. A central bar area is cordoned off by glass paneling and there are the now-ubiquitous flat-screen TVs for those in need of a drink and some sports eye candy. The rest of the restaurant is filled with dark tables and comfy chairs. When the restaurant is empty it looks a little forlorn (which is why the separated bar area works), but when it's busy it's at its best, with a cheery and lively atmosphere.
I prefer TGIF as a middle-of-the-road US dining experience to the other comparable joints in town, because the food is generally of a good standard without being overpriced. There are good staple favorites and specials that constantly evolve. TGIF managers will tell you that there is a "family-friend" ethos at its restaurants and this is reflected in the attitude of its staff. I would agree, the service tends to be better, more friendly and helpful than most other places.
On the night we went to check out the new restaurant I was told we would have to wait half an hour because there were not enough wait staff, even though the place was only half full. The tomato and basil soup with fetta cheese starter arrived with croutons but was lukewarm. When this was mentioned the waiter offered to warm it up again or replace it. But when it came back it was still not hot. I guess these were teething problems.
My favorite, babyback ribs with Jack Daniels glazing was up-to-par, so no change there. My partner's barbecue chicken salad was a big and bright plate that delivered what it promised.
To determine whether the new design has been a success for the restaurant overall, I checked the statistics. Since TGIF introduced its remodeled interiors worldwide, margins have been up 7 percent. So, the new look is here to stay and you better get used to it.