Archive for category General interest



One of the most common questions we are asked about our sailing adventures, especially by fellow sailors, is ‘Have you been around Cape Horn?’ We always proudly answer YES. Sometimes, we even go on to explain that we did it on the Queen Mary 2, on a trip from Ft. Lauderdale to San Francisco. Honestly, it was the only way to do it without spilling my martinis. Being the ships maiden voyage into San Francisco we were treated to a royal welcome.  (Arrival pictured above)

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 See an earlier blog I posted called a ‘Tale of Two Friday’s” and then watch this youtube video. You will see the original Friday’s culture is once again alive and well!




I have recieved numerous request to comment on the sale of T.G.I. Friday’s. I plan to post my thoughts in my blog on Monday.

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Thanks to all of you that have expressed support for my upcoming book. A special thanks to the alumni that have shared their memories from Friday’s glory days. 2015 will be the 50th anniversary of Alan Stillman’s launch of the original Friday’s at 63rd & 1st in NYC and Jim West, the first hourly employee hired for the Greenville Ave store, is organizing a reunion in Dallas. We will keep everyone posted on the time and place.


Many of you have asked when the book will be available. It will go to our agent this month and he says the publishing process usually takes about six months. While a great book could be written about all the fun we had during those early years, it would probably have to be X rated. The book I have written is about the founding principles that made Friday’s so successful. Those principles are being employed by many successful businesses in many fields today and we highlight a few. The biggest delight for me is that Karen Forrester, Friday’s CEO in the UK, has returned her 60 restaurants to these well proven principles and achieved the same outstanding results as Friday’s achieved in the glory days. This validation is truly heart warming and the “Friday’s Family” spirit is the same as the original.


If you have read my earlier blogs, I refer to many of Friday’s founding principles. I received one email reminding me I once threatened to write a book titled “It’s the food, stupid!” While the concept is true and many of the large chains have forgotten that, the book is about management principles, problem solving and excellence. While it is tempting, the book will avoid a post mortem of Friday’s since I left.  I think the results speak for themselves. Customer counts always tell the tale and in the UK they are up 100% in the last four years! I rest my case.

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Monday September 16th Sandy and I fly to London for a long anticipated visit Friday’s, UK and witness the resurrection of the Friday’s original spirit and results.  Results are the mantra I preach and results are what Karen and her Friday’s family have produced. No, ‘well but……….’ just happy customers and employees resulting in exceptional results for the company. We call this the Triangle Theory and Levitation.  Karen and her team have produced a happy ending for my book by demonstrating the founding theories are TIMELESS.


 While there I have been honored by being asked to be an honorary judge at the Bar Champs competition. I will also be teaching a Masters Class to Karens key people. This will give me a chance to air some of  concepts from the book and get feedback from Karen’s best. What a treat that will be! Oh, and don’t say anything but I have a surprise for Karen.


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A Tale of Two Friday’s

Once upon a time in land far, far away an errant lord named Alan discovered a magical forest. This forest was filled with bluebirds, flowers, rainbows, fun and laughter. There was happiness aplenty and people far and wide came to visit. In time, Lord Alan’s magical forest grew by leaps and bounds. Fair maidens and brave knights gathered in large numbers from all over the kingdom to visit the forest. Soon a young enterprising prince named Dan was drawn into the forest. He was delighted and said to Lord Alan, “This is much more than a magical forest; it is an enchanted forest.” Upon closer examination, Lord Alan agreed and joined Prince Dan on his quest to captivate the entire world with the forest. The people were pleased. After many years happily living in the forest, Prince Dan was called to navigate the oceans of the world. He left the care of the enchanted forest to another.  

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Years later, upon Prince Dan’s return from the sea, he was saddened to find the forest quiet. All the laughter was gone. The fair maidens and brave knights were nowhere to be found. Determined to repair these injustices and return laughter to this enchanted land, Prince Dan began writing a manuscript which set forth all of the keys to the kingdom. He diligently explained his philosophies and theories of how to make this land the best in the world. But still, he was saddened because there was no happy ending to his story. Then a miracle occurred. Fair Princess Karen appeared from out of nowhere as if a gift from above and said, “Oh no, the enchanted forest is not gone.  It may still be found in the United Kingdom.” Much to Prince Dan’s delight he found this to be true. Princess Karen had discovered the forest and understood it’s magic. Because she was wise and fair, she surrounded herself with noble and just knights at her red and white round table. Together, they worked diligently to make the forest enchanted once again. When they were done, they were delighted to find they had discovered the Holy Grail. With all their efforts, the fair ladies and brave knights came back in droves to enjoy the bluebirds, flowers and rainbows once again. Even better, they all ordered potato skins.



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Theories & Philosophies – A Lifetime Legacy



My life has taken me from church pulpit to sailboat cockpit. I delivered my first sermon to an audience of 500 before I was old enough to drive. I learned to read the New Testament  in the original Koine Greek language and spent the summer between my sophomore and junior college years as minister of a church while the full time minister was on sabbatical. My sailing experience has taken me to many continents and exotic destinations, including, ports of call in the Mediterranean, Athens, Istanbul, Galapagos Islands and Alaska. I have sailed the equivalence of six times around the world including crossing the Atlantic and transiting the Panama Canal both three times. Pulpit to cockpit are the book ends to my business career at Boise Cascade and the founding of T.G.I. Friday’s Inc.

While I no longer practice a religion my early exposure has had a profound influence on my life. Certainly my values and my penchant to apply those values to business. The teaching method of metaphors and analogies obviously comes from this background. I became legendary both at Boise Cascade and Friday’s for my theories and philosophies and the metaphors I used to teach them. The ‘beach ball’, ‘steel pole’, ‘three styles of management’, ‘magic moment’, and many more were created during my decade long career at Boise Cascade. I continued to develop my repertoire and adapt it at Friday’s and while writing the book but they all owe their origins to my roots and now the added dimension of the lessons learned at sea.

It is flattering to see so many of these theories in common use on the internet. There are cartoon versions, flash card versions, one lady has a complete blog on the ‘beach ball theory’ and a hospitality consultant uses the ‘success syndrome’ and ‘four walls’ theories to start his web page. My attorney told me an arbitration class he took used the ‘beach ball theory’ to illustrate several approaches to arbitration. It is not surprising when you think about the wide dispersal of these theories through the managers we trained for the industry. We used to laugh when we saw the training manuals of other restaurant companies with our name just barely whited out.

We supplied the industry with more than just these training theories. Boise Cascade was on the cutting edge of the computing age. Wow! We had one of the first IBM 360’s. As part of the executive team I was sent to  IBM’s school in Poughkeepsie, New York. The basic message taught was, “LEAVE THE NERDS ALONE!”. Operationally, however, we did effectively use this new tool to develop  controls for all aspects of our business. I converted manufacturing controls to the controls for the  restaurant industry and many of these concepts, forms and controls are still in use today. It is amazing the impact we had.  The tools for free pouring bar operations are still on sale.  The diary we kept of daily  store operations, called ‘The Red Book’ must have inspired a product you can buy on Amazon, which looks exactly like what we used is called the ‘FRIDAY MEMORANDUM BOOK’. These are just the tip of the iceberg but the proudest legacy are the ‘Alumni’ that still use and cherish the values they learned from their Friday’s experience; they ‘Bleed Red & White!’




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Book Writing Music!


There has been a good bit of interest in the status of the book. I was explaining the  current status and how the process works to a good friend. He thought for a minute and said, “Oh, I get it, your write the music and Mikie sings the song!”



As we were launching Friday’s nationally, in the late 60′ and early 70’s, we were creating casual dining and most importantly casual dining food. Restaurant food had primarily been fast food, coffee shops, diners or up scale white table cloth. Casual dining brought innovation, cross overs and FUN. My job was much like Triple D (DINERS – DRIVE-INS & DIVES) on the food network. I searched out the best of the best. I went anywhere there was a line in front of the door. As my friend Mariano (of restaurant fame in Dallas) reminded me recently, Friday’s was the first to blur the lines, serving  ethnic, bar-b-que or ‘whatever’. Our rule was to improve the products we ‘discovered’ with EXCELLENCE and innovation, never directly copying someone.

Our most famous innovation was the potato skin. While entertaining a girl friend’s brother in Dallas who was from Coral Gables, Florida, he mentioned an interesting potato product he had seen at the Mariner Hotel in Coral Gables. Fascinated and always searching for new innovative products I flew to Florida. The product was an embryo of what we eventually made famous but it got us started. Everyone except Joe Snouffer, who was in charge of product development, thought I was crazy. After six months of many variations Joe nailed it. It took another six months for the product to capture the public’s attention but then WOW! Many fun problems ensued, like what do you do with the potato insides we scooped everyday. A cleaver kitchen employe solved that by inventing a peace symbol looking knife that scooped three wedge fries, creating a new product. Ooops, wedge fries became so popular we had excess skins but that’s another story. (We paid the cook $5,000 for his invention). The funniest business problem with potato skins was the pricing.  There didn’t seem to be any limit to the  elasticity of demand, charge what we may,  demand remained unchanged! Nice problem to have.

We introduced many products to many parts of the country for the first time. In Boston we got funny comments about the ‘hot okra’ on the nachos and in the mid-west had to work hard to keep patrons from trying to eat artichoke leaves and choke. I guess we were little responsible for today’s over sized portions. One of our first entries was an ice cream sundae served in the large dimpled goblet in which we served our outrageous martinis on “Friday’s nights”! We prided ourselves on being the leaders of both innovation and quality, making everything from scratch. Our core values were based on EXCELLENCE so our 100% menu philosophy meant every menu item must be best of kind. So even normal items like a grilled cheese or onion soup must be the best of kind. (Our onion soup recipe exceeded the specs at the Ritz-Carlton and the bowl was the classic French crockery.)

Sadly, today the majority of  casual dining has abandoned fresh food and innovation in favor of supply line efficiencies for ease of  preparation. Look for their labels in the frozen food counters at your local grocery store! Happily, this has spawned a delightful new industry, Food Trucks! Fresh food and innovation abound. We go every chance we get!

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I have the honor of attending Friday’s UK annual conference being held at Wembley Stadium, the theme ‘Update and Celebrate’. Karen Forrester, Senior Vice President & CEO, Friday’s UK, is the best natural leader I have met in my long business career. When she holds one of these events it is truly inspiring. I am presenting her with surprise award, first and only of it’s kind. I am also working on getting an interview the London Times reporter who prematurely reported my demise in a restaurant review back in 1990. Karen has asked me to be the Head Judge at their Bar Champs competition. I am delighted to participate and have already put out the word that “I can be bought!” 

The origins of the many worldwide bartender competitions, including the Bartender Olympics, come as a result of a marketing challenge Friday’s faced in the early 80’s. (Note: This event gained enough fame that the Olympic authorities took note and the name had to be changed……personally I think they should just added it as an event!!!)  As I mention in the book the market place is like a meandering road. One must stay alert and follow it or land in the ditch. In the early 80’s we and the industry at large were faced with declining bar sales. The crusade, which I supported, against drunk drivers and a increasingly health conscious consumer, were the primary causes for the decline.

Most of my competitors responded, as they do today, with discounts, two for one’s, give aways and lavish happy hours. Our approach was to educate our patrons to the better experiences in beverage alcohol. We became the largest seller of Hennessy XO, a high end cognac. We were introducing the latest boutique wines from around the world, especially wines from California . One of our biggest promotions, fun and educational for many, was our entrance into the race to be first to the United States with Beaujolais Nouveau. This is a fun worldwide event. The first year I flew the Beaujolais Nouveau back on the Concord and gave a press party in New York City with Tony Randall as our spokesperson. My last year we flew a FedEx DC-10 full of the wine to Memphis for early distribution. After I left Friday’s, the new management, in order to reduce costs, tried using California beaujolais. It was a non-event??????? By departing from the true event  the promotion died.

We also introduced a whole line of non-alcoholic drinks called flings, mmmmmmm-good. The amazing thing we introduced as part of our marketing plan was entertainment at the bar in the form of ‘Flair’! I call it amazing because of the worldwide phenomenon Flair has created. Tom Cruise was trained by a former Friday’s bartender for the movie ‘Cocktail’. So after all these years it seems fitting that I be one of the judges at Karen’s Bar Champs competition and if I can pick up a little money on the side………………………….so!

Oh, by the way, WE INCREASED BEVERAGE SALES, no coupons, discounting, advertising or give aways. Just pursuing our standard of EXCELLENCE!

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