WILBRAHAM, MASS.; July 9, 2010 – Friendly’s, a family dining chain, will celebrate the company’s 75th anniversary on July 18, 2010. The history of Friendly’s is a “Great American Success Story” – what began as a neighborhood ice cream shop started by two young brothers during the worst economic time in U.S. history has since grown into a company of more than 500 restaurants that manufactured over 17 million gallons of ice cream in 2009.
A “Friendly” Face at the Ice Cream Counter:
In 1935, 20 year-old Prestley and 18 year-old Curtis Blake opened a neighborhood ice cream shop in their hometown of Springfield, Mass., selling double-dip cones for five cents. The young entrepreneurs named the business “Friendly” with the intention of providing warm, caring, neighborly service to all of their guests.
When the Blake brothers opened their second location in West Springfield, Mass., a customer convinced them to add food to the menu. The first item was a hamburger, which would later turn into the famous Friendly’s Big Beef®.
Pioneers in the foodservice industry, the Blakes needed to provide high-quality, consistent ice cream and ingredients to the fast-growing company’s restaurants. With no other restaurant companies to emulate, they looked to other successful businesses like Ford Motor Company and J.C. Penney to gain knowledge about running such a complex operation. In 1960, the Blakes moved the company into its current headquarters in Wilbraham, Mass., where the manufacturing facility still makes all the ice cream for 500+ restaurants and 4,000+ grocery and convenience stores.
The Blakes created a vertically integrated company; not only was Friendly’s making its own ice cream, but in the early years, the manufacturing facility did everything from meat packing to making cole slaw, hot fudge and pancake syrup. The company even made its own “Friendly Cola” and orange soda. An old company saying went, “We make everything in a hot fudge sundae but the cherry. That we leave to Mother Nature.”
In 1941, the restaurant introduced one of its signature ice cream creations, the Banana Imperial, Friendly’s version of the banana split. In 1969, the dessert was given its iconic name, the Jim Dandy.
In 1965, Friendly’s introduced its super-thick milkshake. Following an employee contest to find a name for the shake, it was launched as the Fribble®in 1977.
By 1974, Friendly’s was a chain of 500 restaurants concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
In keeping with their customers’ habit of making the brand name possessive, the apostrophe “s” was added to the name in 1989, making the restaurants truly “Friendly’s.”
To further expand the business, Friendly’s established franchising in 1997. Today, franchisees operate 195 Friendly’s restaurants from Massachusetts to Ohio and down to Florida.
Friendly’s in the Freezer Aisle
Since New England consumes more ice cream than any other region of the U.S., it was only natural that Friendly’s would expand into retail. In 1989, Friendly’s began selling its ice cream in grocery stores. Today, Friendly’s Ice Cream is sold in more than 4000 retail outlets east of the Mississippi.
Friendly’s signature Jubilee Roll, introduced in the late 1960s, became a holiday classic. The company manufactured and sold 252,000 of them in 2009 alone.
In celebration of Friendly’s 75th Anniversary, the company turned the Jubilee Roll into a limited edition ice cream flavor. Vanilla ice cream is blended with chopped almonds and chocolate chips, combined with chocolate ice cream that is mixed with chocolate truffles and a fudge swirl, along with pink vanilla ice cream with red and green candies.
Other new additions to Friendly’s retail line-up include:
Friendly’s Ice Cream Cupcakes, made with chocolate cake and topped with Friendly’s all-natural-flavored premium vanilla ice cream. The cupcakes are packaged in containers of six and are adorned with freshly whipped icing and confetti decoration.
Under license with Kraft Foods, Friendly’s Oreo® Ice Cream Cakes are made with two layers of Friendly’s premium vanilla ice cream studded with chunks of Oreo® cookies, separated by a crunchy Oreo® Cookie center layer, topped with vanilla-flavored icing, Oreo® Cookie chunks and a double drizzle of fudge.
Despite the great variety of flavors Friendly’s makes, the best seller is still Vanilla, followed by Vanilla/Chocolate/Strawberry, French Vanilla, Mint Chocolate Chip and Forbidden Chocolate.
Commitment to Community and Families
Families have always been the cornerstone of Friendly’s business. Many parents who bring their families to Friendly’s today have fond childhood memories of coming in for ice cream after a baseball game or stopping in for lunch with grandma and grandpa.
For nearly 30 years, Friendly’s has supported Easter Seals, raising more than $26.6 million to support the organization’s important work helping children and adults with disabilities. In 2009 alone, Friendly’s donated $750,000 to Camp Friendly’s, 30 Easter Seals camps that provide a fun summer experience for children with disabilities.
Friendly’s continues its commitment to Easter Seals with the recent appointment of Friendly’s CEO Ned R. Lidvall to the Easter Seals board of directors.
As a way to give back to the communities of its individual stores, Friendly’s created a Family Fun Night fundraiser program for non-profit organizations, launched in the late nineties. The program formalized the community support that Friendly’s restaurants had been doing locally for decades. Schools, sports teams, clubs and other groups receive a percentage of all dine-in and carry-out total sales earned during scheduled events.
The Friendly’s of the Future:
Just as Friendly’s customers have changed over the years, so has the company. To meet the needs of today’s time-strapped customer, in 2009 Friendly’s introduced its quick-service concept, Friendly’s Express. With three locations open in Massachusetts and another four planned for 2010, Friendly’s Express offers a fast, fun way for people on-the-go to get the food they crave, whether eating in or taking food to-go. The restaurant features a limited menu of Friendly’s favorites, like SuperMelt® sandwiches, Friendly’s Big Beef® Burgers, salads, Fribbles® and Kids’ Meals – as well as new additions like the Southwestern Chicken Wrap and the Apple Walnut Chicken Salad – and, of course, Friendly’s signature ice cream desserts. The service time – averaging six to eight minutes from ordering to service – makes Friendly’s Express perfect for quick but satisfying office lunch breaks and easy for moms out running errands with their children.
The company continues to evolve its menu offerings and recently introduced a line of entrée salads that have been embraced by customers. With varieties including Bleu Moon Sirloin and Southwestern Chipotle Chicken, the salads are fresh and flavorful, with crisp lettuce and ingredients ranging from dried cranberries and blue cheese to tortilla strips and freshly grilled meats.
“This is an exciting time at Friendly’s,” said company President and CEO Ned R. Lidvall. “As we look back with pride on the history of the company and its accomplishments, we will use the core values on which the company was founded as we build the Friendly’s of the future. We will continue to provide our customers with the classic American meals and ice cream that they have loved sharing with their families while adapting to customers’ tastes and time considerations. We look forward to the next 75 years.”
About Friendly Ice Cream Corporation
Friendly Ice Cream Corporation is a vertically integrated restaurant company serving signature sandwiches, entrees and ice cream desserts in a friendly, family environment in more than 500 company and franchised restaurants throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The company also manufactures ice cream, which is distributed through more than 4,000 supermarkets and other retail locations. With a 75-year operating history, Friendly’s enjoys strong brand recognition and is currently revitalizing its restaurants and introducing new products to grow its customer base. For additional information please visit www.friendlys.com.