Recently the Friendly’s restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy, closed 63 stores, and laid off about 1,260 employees. Last week, they came under some heat from a federal agency about attempting to dump employee pensions. But despite this negative PR, Friendly’s is still forging on with their “High Five” ad campaign, which is barely one month old.
While it is important for a brand going through bankruptcy to maintain advertising to show creditors that they are still viable, I have to wonder if this is the message that will reinvigorate their brand and help keep doors open. According to the Friendly’s High 5 Facebook page, “…the simple gesture of a High 5 is the ultimate sign of Friendlyness and celebration, and it’s the inspiration behind our High 5 menu – 5 of your favorites, each $5.” While the idea of such a value menu has been successful for other family chain restaurants like IHOP and Denny’s, I think this messaging is just a bit ironic. While High 5 Heidi is running across our TV screens and hosting High 5 photo contests on Facebook, Friendly’s is also eliciting comments like:
You think a smiling greeter is going to solve your problems? I doubt it. I think your best bet is to stop treating your employees like complete trash. I hope this NEVER happens to you, but imagine if you woke up tomorrow and found out your job had been taken from you, and you would only receive the money due to you and nothing else. Imagine the terror. Now imagine if you lived day to day, (after all the friendly’s pay is so low, full-time employees have no choice but to live day to day) it’s a devastating thought, isn’t it? This is what you’ve done to hundreds or hard working people. High 5
My mom used to take me to Friendly’s for dinner every Tuesday before Irish step dancing class. It was the highlight of my week. The atmosphere, staff, menu and of course the ice cream made for the perfect mother-daughter afternoon. For a company that was founded during the Great Depression, it seems to me that they would have done better for themselves to go back to the basics. Focus on the ice cream, and the moms will follow the kids. That’ll take you through Chapter 11, and any other chapters soon to follow.