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T.G.I. Friday's set to open 20 new restaurants in three years

By Peter Ruddick , 06-Jul-2012
Last updated on 06-Jul-2012 at 19:12 GMT

Karen Forrester, the UK managing director of American restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday's, has revealed the business has plans to open at least 20 new venues in the next three years as the brand reinvigoration continues.

In an exclusive video interview for BigHospitality, Forrester explained since she had taken over in 2007 her aim had been to develop the people within the business and make them the focus of success. 

As part of expansion plans which will see the brand open new restaurants in Manchester, Wembley, Brighton, Glasgow, Halifax and Blackpool in the next twelve months, 2,000 jobs will be created.

Neglected

Forrester has been credited with reinvigorating the brand in the UK leading it to 14 successive quarters of growth. 

"What the people and the business definitely needed was to feel loved again," she said. "If I am due any credit it may well be that I just brought the love back and gave them a reason to feel proud again."

In March the Scotland-born managing director was named best individual retailer at the Retailer's Retailer of the Year Awards  organised by BigHospitality's sister publication M&C Report.

Spectacular

Turning to specifics, Forrester said she had rejected moves to discount - something she said had been a wise move.

"The people had lost their way and felt quite unloved and neglected for some time. That then reflected on the brand and the perception of the brand."

"Why did people come to Friday's in their hordes 20-25 years ago in the UK? Once you work that out it is not that difficult to realise that is the solution to the problem."

"There were all these temptations, as with everyone, to discount or promote or think it is around the design or the product."

"The one thing was around the people. If I could fix that - make sure we had the right people, give them the great training again to bring back the awesome menu and drinks knowledge that Friday's was famous for - and then differentiate ourselves through the experience then I felt we had a better chance of survival than some of our competitors who chose to discount during the downturn." 

"Even I had no idea how true that was because the turnaround was quite spectacular," she said.

Functional brands

Forrester also revealed she felt there were other high street brands that were in a similar situation to where T.G.I Friday's had been and had become too functional.

She also explained why she welcomed the competition from food-led pubs, why she was looking at the street food development to push the business forward and which other US brands she thought might hit the UK soon.

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