Fridays - Shaping a new future
Fridays first opened in New York in 1965 with flowing cocktails and charismatic bartenders wearing red and white stripes and making every night feel like a Friday. Inspired by the Barnum & Bailey Circus, with ambition to put on the “greatest show on earth”, Fridays needed barricades within a week to handle the hordes of guests excited to find a meeting place that served not only hot food and drink but legendary atmosphere.
In more recent years, the dining sector became incredibly cluttered, the consumer increasingly discerning and only brands that stand for something stand out from the crowd. I joined the business in December 2019 as chief marketing officer, part of a fresh leadership team with an invitation to challenge convention from a new chief executive.
Inspired by detailed consumer insight, we embraced the challenges faced by the business. Five key areas of focus were identified: Food – our menu had no “centre of gravity”. Drink – once famous for cocktails, we were perceived as lacking relevance. Service – our standards were complicated and inconsistent. Environment – our seating was cramped and uncomfortable, and our playlist incongruent and loud. Atmosphere – we weren’t giving consumers reason to stay and create memorable experiences.
Along with a few home truths, we did see a strong emotional connection with the brand and a willingness from consumers for us to get it right. We set about making Fridays famous again, with a forensic focus on quality, relevance and simplicity.
The first question we asked for the future of Fridays was “what is its role?” We needed fresh clarity and a single-minded view on Fridays’ purpose. The brand had lost its way and forgotten what it wanted to be famous for. And the answer was perfectly simple. Our brand was originally designed around expectation, anticipation and excitement. It’s about the experience, a sense of looking forward. Freedom. Quite literally “That Fridays Feeling”. It’s fun times, shared moments and unexpected experiences. Like every day is a Friday. We just needed to deliver it again, consistently.
Our brand identity needed to reflect our positioning. We have an iconic and nostalgic brand, rich in history and emotion. In a world where brands are inventing nostalgia, we have it in large boxes in a massive storeroom. We just needed to unlock it with a cooler, more modern digital toolkit. We took elements from the past and made them relevant for the future. Vertical red and white stripes. A brand font with a hint of Barnum & Bailey’s personality. A new digital brand icon. And a fresh but familiar-shaped logo inspired by the original signage. Not just a change of symbol but as a symbol of change, we even updated our name, to “Fridays”. It’s how the business is more commonly referred to globally and we believe TGI is dated, lost and confused at a time when we need to be single-minded, fresh and confident. (Ironically, TFI might have been more appropriate after the past 12 months).
The customer experience and covid-19
In the first quarter of 2020, we redesigned the menu, constructed a new cocktail list and simplified our approach to service. We shot new photography and created compelling content. Then the pandemic forced us to close all our restaurants just as we were preparing to launch a new “Famous” proposition in six of them.
It was a setback but our spirits were high and we knew we had started something. We had seen the energy lift at a 300-people management conference in January. We had sensed the excitement in concept development meetings internally and with key strategic partners. We worked relentlessly through the first lockdown to ensure summer reopening would be successful and created new online propositions to drive incremental revenue and leverage brand value. Click and collect launched in May followed by Cocktails at Home, Butcher’s Boxes and DIY meal kits. In the end, we nearly had to stop having new ideas, but to celebrate the brand’s strength and bar heritage, we did conceive a completely new brand extension – 63rd+1st. A city-based cocktail bar based on the very first Fridays in New York and where “life tastes better shared”. Opening initially in Cobham, Surrey, from May 2021, we will open further 63rd+1st locations across the UK.
It was clear we needed to rebuild the marketing team and strengthen our brand and digital expertise. A team of five became 11. PR, partnerships, social media, content and a consistent tone of voice was used to bring to life the brand proposition and generosity of spirit. And we introduced digital channel experts to reach audiences, old and new, more effectively with measurable impact. The new team bring skills from a range of sectors, brands and agencies so new thinking and tried and tested strategy were implemented at pace. An online talent show celebrated that Fridays feeling to deliver an audience reach of almost four million and more than ten million votes. New automated customer communications and loyalty programme initiatives ensured record app downloads and redemptions.
The new team also delivered a website migration, loyalty app re-skin, responsive email templates and is always on paid media to support astonishing digital growth. And now we’re completing a thorough review of our digital platforms and architecture to ensure fit-for-purpose technology to drive further growth, intelligent use of data and the very best customer experience.
Our vision remains to make Fridays famous again. Ideally, we will reopen our restaurants as a first step. Consumer insight from October 2020 confirms we’ve made good headway on improvements to our food, drink and service proposition, and we’re optimistic for the future. And a 4D strategy – Dine In, Digital, Delivery and Drive-In – offers an extensive customer experience to drive sustainable business growth. We hope to be operating in a post-covid world where we’ll continue to celebrate our heritage, serve freshly made-to-order dishes from top-quality ingredients and vibrant cocktails full of energy and theatre. After all, a little serving of that Fridays feeling is long overdue for everyone.
Dan Staples is chief marketing officer at Fridays