As a child of the ‘80s, here is the oldest knowledge I have about TGI Fridays: Their menus used to be thick as a book; they used to serve the best giant baskets of fried clams; and one time, on my birthday, the servers tied so many balloons to my chair that it scared the shit out of me, and I vowed never to go back again. Obviously, in the decades since, a lot has changed. (Do they still even serve fried clams?!) So I guess it stands to reason that in the decades before the ‘80s, things were different too. But did you know that when Fridays launched, it was originally a singles bar? And a popular one at that.
In one of its latest videos, the YouTube channel Great Big Story sat down with TGI Fridays founder Alan Stillman to talk about the origins of the now ubiquitous casual dining chain. Stillman explains that back before cellphones and text messaging, people actually had to make arrangements on where to meet on weekends, and TGI Fridays was designed to fill that demand: “a cocktail party that you didn’t need an invitation to,” as Stillman described it. The concept was a huge success, resulting in lines out the door, and the rest is history.
So if you ever decide to take your kid to TGI Fridays for his birthday, and they tie a million balloons onto his chair (Do they still even do that?) just remember, you are totally not old and washed up at all. You’re hanging out at a singles bar.