What Makes Friendly's Newest Location So Different

In a time where even fast-food restaurants try to be sleek and modern, Friendly's seems to be one of the few places that embrace the charm of an old-school ice cream parlor. Having first opened back in the 1930s during the worst times of the Great Depression, by brothers Prestley and Curtis Blake (via Friendly's timeline), the chain has dedicated itself to being a friendly neighborhood restaurant and ice cream shop. Whether you're buying its ice cream from the grocery store freezer aisle or enjoying a Fribble in one of the booths at your local store, Friendly's certainly tries to live up to its slogan: "Where ice cream makes the meal."

While the chain has seen better days as of late, having filed for bankruptcy in 2020 (via Business Insider) before being picked up by Amici Partners Group (via Mass Live), Friendly's is branching out with a new location in Westfield, Massachusetts. Ice cream and Fribble lovers will rejoice at this news — but there's one thing that separates the new eatery from the rest. 

Friendly's is trying out a fast-casual approach

With its new "Friendly's Cafe" location, Friendly's is trying to adopt the fast-casual style, much in the same way that restaurants such as Chipotle and Five Guys operate. According to FastCasual, Friendly's Cafe will have a capacity of 45 guests, an optional QR code ordering system, and curbside pick-up options, though in-person dining is still open. Menu items will include products such as Dorito's Cool Ranch Chopped Cheese Burger, Bangin' Beef Stroganoff, and Tater Kegs (via Nation's Restaurant News), all of which can be ordered online and picked up at the Cafe.

CEO of Friendly's Craig Erlich claims in a company statement that the Friendly's Cafe is a chance to "further menu and technology innovation" to meet the desires of the customers while still keeping true to Friendly's mission of being a family-friendly restaurant. A grand opening event is scheduled for April 6, per Nation's Restaurant News.

Friendly's isn't the first restaurant to dip its toes into the fast-casual business model. Applebee's in 2020 tried their hand at a delivery and takeout-oriented restaurant with their Applebee's Express (via Restaurant Business Online), while IHOP opened Flip'd, its on-the-go model, in New York in July 2021 (via Food and Wine).