Why TGI Fridays Is Emphasizing Sushi And Zero-Proof Alcohol Options

If you aren't thinking "hangout spot" when you hear the name "TGI Fridays," it might be time to think again — at least, that's what new CEO Brandon Coleman III is aiming for. In what he calls "a transformative next phase," TGI Fridays will be turning a casual dining chain into a social gathering place, reports Nation's Restaurant News. That means live music, games, mocktails, and a menu refresh, for starters. (Hello, sushi.) The Fridays team will also be assigning trendier-sounding names to existing menu offerings. Some fresh collaborations may also be on the horizon; the chain has already partnered with zero-proof liquor brand Spiritless and Krispy Rice sushi. So, what's the motivation for the makeover?

When TGI Fridays first opened in Manhattan's Upper East Side in 1965, the world looked pretty different. As founder Alan Tillman told Edible Geography in a 2010 interview, believe it or not, the chain first opened as a swinging cocktail bar where young singles could meet. "Before T.G.I. Friday's, four single 25-year-old girls were not going out on Friday nights, in public and with each other, to have a good time," he explained. Now, as the restaurant industry and the nightlife scene have evolved, TGI Fridays wants to be part of the action rather than a relic of the past. According to the new CEO, "Maybe it's not about being a singles' bar anymore, but we're now focused on ... being a welcoming environment where people can gather and more than just your typical kind of casual dining offering."

Staying relevant in a changing industry

Walking the line between welcome familiarity, modernization, and trendiness will be the chain's primary foci in 2023 and beyond. TGI Fridays seeks to broaden its appeal to reach younger generations — possibly giving it an edge over competitors like Chili's and Applebee's. In particular, Applebee's has been shuttering more and more locations in recent months. This new brand overhaul and polished innovation could be coming at just the right time in the competitive industry.

Perhaps the most on-target move in TGI Fridays' new prospective arsenal is the mocktail menu. In recent years, alcohol-free foodies have been loving designated "sober bars," which serve up fancy spirit-free drinks for the same price as the liquor-based versions. As Joshua James, a San Francisco bar owner, tells Business Insider, "The demographics are absolutely OK with paying a similar price point. They're just so stoked to see something on the menu — they're so stoked to be included." Booze-free cocktails have been enjoying high sales, and the mocktail market is expected to see continued growth as Gen Z consumers are purchasing less alcohol than Gen X and Boomers did during the same age bracket. Today, an estimated 30% of drinking-age U.S. consumers abstain from alcohol altogether, and N.A. beverage sales rose by 33% in 2021, hitting $331 million. The nightlife sector could expect to see some other fresh concepts in the coming months, as familiar favorite Wendy's is also returning to the late-night food game.