All those stripes might cost you.
TGI Friday’s – Turnersville, NJ
5901 Route 42, Blackwood, NJ?
Meal: Weekend / Dinner / 8pm
Price: $25 (with tip and coupon below – for two)
We’ve compared a lot of quick-serve sit-down restaurants on Chewru to TGI Friday’s, and rightfully so. More than anyone else, they’ve branded themselves as a fun, modern place for a get together with friends. After a much-need visual refresh started on their stores a few years back, they’ve come back strong with a new look and a new spokesperson in the name of Guy Fieri (the spikey-haired chef dude that hopefully is a better cook than a promoter). Still, manufacturing ‘fun’ isn’t what it used to be. What about the value for the money?
If you’ve been to one Friday’s you’ve been to them all. They’re very similar to each other with small exceptions as to the wall decor. This, of course, is the whole point of a chain restaurant – familiarity. One thing we’ve noticed over the years, though, is a fair amount of inconsistency in the bar. Our favorite Friday’s drink, dubbed ‘one hour in a candy store’, seems available in some stores but not others. Alcohol potency varies wildly from one store to another, and I wish they’d train their bartenders to just stick with the ‘official’ recipes to keep things consistent across the entire chain.
On our particular visit, we were herded in on a busy weekend and waited about ten minutes to be seated. We had no complaints with the wait time whatsoever, but the group of hostesses milling around just made it all the more cramped. Fortunately, we got one of a handful of seats in the building that had a wall directly on two sides of us. I generally do not like open-facing tables in any casual restaurant unless I’m with a large enough group that makes a booth or back-wall table impractical. Our waitress was pleasant even though it was extremely busy when we were seated. Friday’s gives them help by having separate servers from the actual order takers; I like this approach as it keeps the wait staff more likely to be available and not in the back grabbing entrees.
Friday’s used to heavily promote it’s ‘right portion, right price’ menu, but I think that may have been a marketing flop. With the economy the way it is, people are looking for more food for the buck, not less. The maximum price of these dishes is only $10, but unless you’ve got a very small stomach, you’re probably ordering appetizers and a dessert with it. For example, the petite sirloin, a 6oz mini-cut, comes out to $20 per pound. For that price, you could get a giant lobster tail at the supermarket or a whole box of hamburgers. Tough sell, in my opinion. The rest of the menu is strengthened by the Jack Daniel’s line, although the full rack of ribs and shrimp will set you back $20. The appetizers are creative and we haven’t found one we don’t like.
For my meal, I tried the fish and chips with a side house salad ($12). Neither were served with any artful presentation, and the side of french I requested for the salad was served with thousand island (because, I guess, they’re close enough?). The fish had a nice color, good generic-whitefish flavor, and a very satisfying crunch. The provided fries were delicious .. I only wish they gave me just a little bit more. The tartar sauce was on the sweet side and had a lot of taste. Generally speaking, Friday’s has always been very good with sauces.
Autumn tried the 10oz steak with broccoli, setting her back almost $15. She cut me a little corner to taste and I thought the steak had a really smooth, charcoal flavor that I very much enjoyed. A slightly better value than the cheapie 6oz variety, Autumn still looked a little hungry after (and she’s not a big eater) and I shuffled her some fries to her delight. For $15, would it have killed them to include a half-ear of corn or a small second side? As you’ll see in the picture below, plopping a steak in the center of a plate with the veggies in a separate bowl is a little on the depressing side – notice all the empty space? Psychogically, one has to wonder if that makes you think you ate less than you did..
With a coupon, it’s a reasonable place to eat. Using the buy-one-get-one-free above, we still ended up paying $18, and that was without an appetizer, alcohol, or a dessert. Throw in a tip on the full amount, and you’re at $25. Friday’s really needs to work to get a supermajority of their items below $15 to keep the crowds coming, because I think the days of a casual eatery getting away with sky high margins has come to an end. On the flip side, they have a good loyalty program (the ‘stripes’ card) and enough menu items to keep recurring visits from feeling stale.
– Creative appetizers
– Terrific french fries!
– Good loyalty program
– Non-standardized drink menu?
– Poor presentation of meals
– Generally small portion sizes
Guru’s Score: 3.1 Chews
Subjective rating: Clip those coupons!
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