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No doubt about it: Americans live life in the fast lane. Drive-throughs, express lanes in supermarkets, and express coffee shops and eateries enable us to do business quickly and eat on the fly. As a result, many consumer-focused businesses are finding ways to accommodate customers by fulfilling our ever -increasing need for speed.

And now Friendly’s, a Massachusetts-based 500 unit restaurant chain known for its ice cream and treats, with stores in New England, New York, New Jersey, the mid Atlantic and Florida, wants to jump into the fray.

There’s only one problem with this.  Despite offering a menu with mainstays and a few unique offerings as well as awesome ice cream treats, Friendly’s has another, less desirable brand attribute that’s been well-documented: exceptionally S-L-O-W service. Given this, does it make sense for Friendly’s to push for “express” locations?

It’s a fair question. Undaunted, new CEO Harsha Agadi says, “Yes” and shares his plans in a short interview with the Boston Herald.

In a nutshell: Agadi believes he can open 100 Express locations by 2015 with updated menus offering healthier choices and more affordability. He believes doing this, as well as doubling the sales of Friendly’s packaged ice cream sold in supermarkets, will push “this brand across the $1 billion mark” in annual sales. Currently, the chain generates $725 million in sales.

Agadi doesn’t specify how he plans on doubling retail sales on packaged products, however. Maybe he intends to push for distribution in more grocery and gourmet chains? Smaller, drive-through locations along interstate highway systems? Or perhaps he’s interested in launching new products? We can only speculate.

Here’s what he does say: “I want to invest in the brand and bring much more consistency to customer service (read: more speed) and food quality.” Here’s what he doesn’t say: whether he plans on improving both in current restaurant units.

But here are the core questions for the Daily Fix faithful:

Can a restaurant chain synonymous with slow service, successfully extend its brand to become an “Express” destination?

Should management be eyeing expansion with new units before fixing the slower-than-molasses service issue in its current restaurants?

What do you think?

Continue reading "Friendly's to Become Faster and Friendlier" ... Read the full article

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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (, a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.