TGI Fridays is making endless appetizers permanent in an attempt to escape a dying industry

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TGI Friday’s apps.
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TGI Fridays

TGI Fridays Endless Apps are back and they’re here to stay.

Starting Wednesday, $10 Endless Apps will become a permanent menu item at Fridays. Customers can purchase endless orders of classic appetizers such as mozzarella sticks and buffalo wings, or new apps, like fried pickles and meatballs.

The move is part of a wider effort at Fridays to escape the sinking casual dining industry, and find a new position alongside trendy bars.

“We want to withdraw from the casual dining category,” TGI Fridays CEO John Antioco told Business Insider. “When you look at the alternatives out there in the marketplace today and who’s creating buzz and creating excitement, it’s gone away from chain casual dining and gone into gastropubs.”

Currently, beer, wine, and liquor make up roughly 20% of Fridays sales. According to Antioco, if you dig into the numbers further, about 35% of the chain’s revenue comes from the bar area, meaning drinks plus food ordered at the bar.

“I’m looking to – and the team is looking to – drive that piece of the business closer to 50%, as we sell more bar-centric food,” Antioco said.

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TGI Friday’s

That’s where Endless Apps come into play, along with other strategies to attract customers to Fridays bar.

Next week, the company is launching a new burger bar, intended to further boost bar snacking. Fridays is in the midst of a restaurant reimaging effort, with plans have 85% of restaurants built with a more bar-centric, open design by early 2019. And, with slumping sales at suburban locations, the company is opening new restaurants in urban areas where the gastropub-inspired concept is expected to thrive.

TGI Fridays desperately needs customers to get on board with its transformation from a casual dining chain into a gastropub.

“In terms of casual diners, a lot of it kind of comes down to the fact that the brands that are just kind of dated,” Wedbush analyst Colin Radke told Business Insider.

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Marketing for TGI Fridays new burger bar.
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TGI Fridays

With sinking sales across the industry, casual dining chains are looking for any possible savior. So far, most casual dining chains’ revitalization efforts – such as Applebee’s $40 million plan to install wood-flame grills – have failed to convince customers.

Fridays is hoping to buck the trend, not by becoming a better casual dining chain, but by ditching the category all together.

According to Antioco, redesigned restaurants in urban areas are already some of the strongest in the brand. When customers order drinks or Endless Apps, they stay out longer and spend more.

If more bar-centric locations, with the new design and a rotating menu of bar snacks, can convince customers to visit just one more time a year, Antioco says the image revamp will be a success for Fridays.

“When you think about the options people have today for food… our goal has to be to create an experience in the restaurants that makes Fridays worth going to,” Antioco said.