Friendly’s restaurants are now under new ownership.
The sale of more than 100 corporate-owned and franchised restaurant locations to a Connecticut-based entity of restaurant operators and investors was finalized this week.
Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, the Western Massachusetts-based parent company of Friendly’s restaurants, announced in November that the company entered into a sale agreement with Amici Partners Group.
“The investors of Amici Partners Group, LLC have been involved with the Friendly’s Restaurant brand in many capacities over the years, not only as owners/operators and leaders in the system, but also as longtime loyal customers of this iconic brand,” Craig Erlich, president and CEO of Amici Partners, said in a statement Tuesday. “Based on our personal connection to the chain, strong investment capabilities, and seasoned management team, we believe we will be able to continue to reinvigorate this much-loved brand for both loyal patrons and new customers alike.”
Under new ownership, the company will work to reestablish Friendly’s as a “family-friendly destination” and introduce both new ice cream flavors and other menu offerings, Erlich said. “Friendly’s holds a special place in the hearts of its many loyal patrons, and we look forward to nurturing that legacy and creating new programs and menu items to meet the changing needs of our customers.”
There are 130 franchised and corporate-owned Friendly’s restaurant locations. Amici is expected to retain staff at the corporate-owned locations. Staffing decisions at franchised locations are determined at the local level.
“Over the last two years, Friendly’s has made important strides toward reinvigorating our beloved brand in the face of shifting demographics, increased competition, and rising costs,” George Michel, CEO of FIC Restaurants, said when the sale was announced in November. “We achieved this by delivering menu innovation, re-energizing marketing, focusing on take-out, catering and third-party delivery, establishing a better overall experience for customers, and working closely with our franchisees and restaurant teams. Unfortunately, like many restaurant businesses, our progress was suddenly interrupted by the catastrophic impact of COVID-19, which caused a decline in revenue as dine-in operations ceased for months and re-opened with limited capacity.”
As part of the sale process, the company filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11.
“We believe the voluntary bankruptcy filing and planned sale to a new, deeply experienced restaurant group will enable Friendly’s to rebound from the pandemic as a stronger business, with the leadership and resources needed to continue to invest in the business and serve loyal patrons, as well as compete to win new customers over the long-term,” Michel said. “Importantly, it is also expected to preserve the jobs of Friendly’s restaurant team members, who are the heart and soul of our enterprise and have been critical to the progress we have made in transforming this iconic brand.”
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011 in a plan that closed 63 restaurants, including five in Western Massachusetts: Federal Street in Greenfield; East Street in Chicopee; Wilbraham Road in Springfield; Main Street in Ware; and Westfield Street in West Springfield.
Over the past decade, more than 300 Friendly’s restaurant locations have closed. It has opened new locations in recent years, including at the Apex Center in Marlborough.
Friendly’s sold its retail ice cream and manufacturing business to Dallas, Texas-based Dean Foods Co. in 2016 for $155 million. Dean sells ice cream to supermarkets and Friendly’s restaurants.
Brothers S. Prestley and Curtis Blake founded Friendly — the possessive wasn’t added until years later — in 1935 in Springfield and grew the company quickly in the years following. The company was sold to Hershey Foods in 1979. It has changed several times in the decades since.