I get asked the question quite often, what were the roles you and Alan Stillman played in the historical development of Friday’s?  Alan was the creative genius that created Friday’s. He came up with the name, trade dress and clearly tapped into  the hottest market of the century. Being a New Yorker and creative, his development stayed in New York and cleverly involved the other days of the week. In  69′ or 70′ he was approached by the Memphis Overton Square developers seeking to have an anchor for their development a New York style bar and  sidewalk cafe. A deal was done and they opened in 1971. Luckily for the future of the concept they were first class people and improved on the original design. Seeing small southern towns  as his opportunity Alan signed in rapid succession, Nashville, Jackson, Little Rock and Shreveport.  Support systems and operating manuals were minimal. The name, trade dress and market opportunity carried the day.

I viewed the opportunity as more universal and put together an agreement for 8 major cities and founded, what would become, todays T.G.I. Friday’s Inc. I brought business systems, controls, best practices and  maybe the first computer systems to the restaurant  industry from my 10 years of experience at Boise Cascade. Seeing a different future, I upgraded everything, a new prototype (the now famous raised square bar), doubled the restaurant and seating capacity, used first class artifacts, stained glass and Herbert Hughes as designer.  At one point Alan told me I was going to too much trouble, “just put up the red and white awning, hang the ferns and tiffany lamps and be done with it”. We focused on product improvement; hired Vic Smith for the bar and Joe Snouffer for the kitchen both of whom would go on to be legends in the company’s history. Believing in our future success,even before we opened, while at the Little Rock opening I suggested to Alan he merge with me. He politely laughed off the offer.  He would return six months later and we would merge.  Alan becoming a minor partner in my company. You see, we had opened with double the sales and triple the profits of any previous Friday’s. All the trouble had paid off!

In spite of these great beginnings we soon were on track to fail. Volumes were falling, as much as 50%, following our store openings like dominos in a row. What Friday’s was to become was the result of our reaction to this crisis. My development of the now famous ‘Theories and Philosophies’ was in response to this near failure. Within six months of implementing these ‘T&P’ we recovered and began exceeding original volumes, growing these volumes for the next decade. This story is what my book is all about!

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