10 Things You Didn't Know About TGI Friday's

This chain restaurant broke far more ground than you might realize

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10 Things You Didn't Know About TGI Friday's

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Today, TGI Friday’s is more or less just another chain bar and grill on the same wavelength as competitors like Applebee’s and Chili’s. But without Friday’s, the chain restaurant scene in America would be very different; the company blazed a trail and made history in the process. 

Alan Stillman Opened the First Location as a Way to Meet Women

The Upper East Side of New York City in 1965 was a hotbed of "stewardesses," secretaries, fashion models, and other young singles. Stillman has made it well known that his primary motivation for opening the original bar (pictured) was to meet some of them. 

The First Friday’s Was the First ‘Singles’ Bar’

Photo TGI Friday's Modified: Flickr/ Mike Mozart/ CC4.0

Before Friday’s, there really was nowhere for a groups of single young professionals to go for a night of casual dinner and drinks. The fact that there was now a relaxed place where groups of young women and men could gather and mingle together on a Friday night wasn’t just new — it was revolutionary. The first location was so popular that it brought in $1 million in revenue in its first year — the equivalent of about $7.5 million today.

They Were the First to Sing a Birthday Song to Guests

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If you told your server that there was a birthday at your table, come dessert time, the entire crew would come to your table with a piece of cake and sing to you. It’s a chain restaurant tradition by this point, but nobody was doing it before Friday’s.  

The First Location Is Today a Bar Called Baker Street

The original location shuttered in 1994, and is now an English pub called Baker Street. If you visit, you’ll notice that a couple original touches — such as the brass rails — are still there. 

After Leaving the Company, Stillman Became a Successful Restaurateur on His Own

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After leaving TGI Friday’s, Stillman held onto the original location in New York and also went on to found another successful restaurant, Smith & Wollensky, in 1977 with partner Ben Benson. Named after two random names he pulled from a phone book, Smith & Wollensky is today one of America’s top-selling steakhouses, with nine locations nationwide. Today he’s a partner with his son, Michael, in restaurants including Maloney & Porcelli, Quality Meats, and Quality Italian. Benson went on to run Ben Benson’s Steakhouse in New York for 30 years until it closed in 2012. 

The Chain Is Credited with Inventing Potato Skins

Photo Potato Skins Modified: Flickr/ Don_Naked/ CC4.0

Are you a fan of “loaded” potato skins, topped with bacon, sour cream, Cheddar, and scallions? Thank Scoggin, who introduced them to America when he added them to the menu in the early 1970s.  

It Was the First Chain to Offer Avocados and Mexican Appetizers

Photo Quesadillas Modified: Flickr/ David K/ CC4.0

Guacamole and quesadillas are chain bar and grill staples, but they’d never been on a non-Mexican restaurant menu until Friday’s added it to theirs.

It Was the First American Chain Restaurant to Open in Moscow

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Vincente Villamon/ CC4.0

The chain became the first American casual dining to open in Moscow in 1997. 

The London Locations Are the Chain’s Highest-Grossing

Photo Broad Court Modified: Flickr/ Duncan/ CC4.0

Upon opening in 1987, the location in London’s Covent Garden became the chain’s highest-grossing outpost. That title has since been claimed by the nearby Leicester Square location.

Nearly All Locations Have a Propeller and Rowing Scull on Display

Wall-mounted antiques are a design feature of all locations; walk around your local Friday’s and you’ll notice that a propeller and a rowing scull are almost always on display. The propeller, usually near or above the bar, is intended to symbolically “propel” the restaurant, and the scull almost always contains a pair of saddle shoes and a bottle of Champagne to symbolize leadership, teamwork, and success.