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Today is Friday—What better day to post our netnography of T.G.I. Friday’s?

More so than other restaurants in the casual dining segment, T.G.I. Friday’s wants to be known for its ambiance and vibe more than for its food. The company’s “brand promise” is “In Here it’s ALWAYS Friday” and the chain places a lot of emphasis on drinking and bartenders. Some customers like the drinks, but many don’t like the ambiance. The food doesn’t get rave reviews, either.

The company’s press releases say that: “T.G.I. Friday’s offers a unique, casual experience … melding authentic and imaginative American food, exciting and innovative drinks and a one of a kind service experience to provide liberation from the everyday—turning any day into a FRIDAY! As the original casual dining restaurant, Friday’s delights guests in more than 900 restaurants across more than 60 countries around the globe.” (Source: news-release boilerplate)

Note: This netnography is one in a series on casual dining restaurants. You can read a summary of our findings for the casual dining segment here.

Positive Themes

Diners praise the chain for its “great menu selections,” including drinks, desserts, appetizers, and Jack Daniel’s sauce.

  • Posting pics of the trip later today, we saw about 5 fireworks shows out on the dock over the bay, it was INCREDIBLE!! Plus the barbeque was beautiful and the company…and on a side note, leftover TGI Friday’s Jack Daniels sesame chicken strips makes a pretty good breakfast!! (source)
  • Tgi Friday potato skins cheddar and bacon chips are the best chips ever. THE BEST CHIPS EVEEEEEER. (source)
  • I’m really craving some tgi fridays fried mac n chz (: might just have to go there for lunch with my mommy <3. (source)

Consumers also like the “great deals” at the restaurant.

  • T.G.I. Friday’s has a printable coupon good for a FREE entree with purchase of another entree and an appetizer ! The coupon expires tomorrow, March 9. Want to keep up with all of the free stuff? (source)
  • TGIFridays Halloween Deals & Freebies . T.G.I. Friday’s is serving up free appetizers and kids meals Halloween Weekend!Here are the deals!Friday October 29th 5 – close: FREE AAAH!PETIZER for anyone wearing a costume. (source)

The company promotes its “great ambiance” but that’s only the fourth most-common positive theme in our sample.

  • there’s nothing like catching up wid an old frd. never knew TGI fridays could be fun on Sundays as well ;). (source)

The company also touts its “great customer service,” which was the fifth most-common positive theme.

  • The new TGI Friday’s at Guting Station in Taipei is absolutely amazing. The service people there are excellent and the management is on point. Many people will have GREAT experiences there! (source)

Negative Themes

Consumers criticized the chain for “poor food qualities,” meaning “not good tasting,” “unhealthy,” and “unsafe to eat.”

  • I just read that T.G.I. Friday’s is the 2nd worst family restaurant in america for high calorie and fatty food, the cheese cake factory is the worst. (source)
  • TGI Friday’s BBQ popcorn chicken is pretty overrated. I had to add more barbeque sauce just to make it taste like bbq. But anyways, watching Deadliest warrior until 11 then going to SES I ‘spose. (source)
  • I like to consider myself a ranch dressing connossieur, and I have to say tgi fridays has the worst ranch I’ve ever tasted. (source)
  • Man I better stop eating grilled chicken… “In independent laboratory tests commissioned by PCRM, 100 grilled chicken items from McDonald’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, and TGI Friday’s were all found to contain PhIP, one of a group of carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).” (source)

The next two most-common negative themes were “poor customer service” and “poor ambiance”—two areas where the chain thinks it excels.

  • Just left TGI Friday’s in Cincy and the service was so BAD all 5 of us got our whole order for free!!!! (source)
  • i do not like tgi friday’s. we have been waiting for our food for almost an hour and our ghetto fabulous waitress is so rude. three starving kids.. (source)
  • July 18, 2010 at 8:17 pm.  Sorry, nothing I can do. I was stuck in a TGI Friday’s with a continuous track of Justin Bieber songs on the other day and a bunch of screaming tween girls. I think it was one of their birthdays and they brought the CD along. You may have to go to extremes and hack off your ears. (source)

Insights

T.G.I. Friday’s wants to be a fun place to go, but different people have different ideas of what’s fun. If you’re a twenty-something looking to meet friends at a casual restaurant where you can drink and meet other young people, then T.G.I. Friday’s is probably a good bet. If you’re an older adult, or a family, it’s probably going to be too loud and you may feel a bit out of place, especially in the evening on a weekend. Also, if you’re looking for a better-than-average meal or a healthy meal, this is not a good bet. And you’d better not be in a hurry, because many diners comment on the slow—and sometimes rude—service.

We’ve talked about the restaurants in this crowded casual dining segment working to differentiate themselves, and T.G.I. Friday’s tries to do that with its emphasis on atmosphere and service. The atmosphere suits some people, but the service doesn’t suit anyone very well and is a major source of dissatisfaction with the chain.

The chain’s emphasis on a young vibe, lively atmosphere, bartenders, and drinks is designed to appeal to consumers between ages 21 and mid-thirties. Maybe the chain ought to focus their marketing more on that segment and downplay the appeal of the restaurants for families with young children and diners not looking to party.

One marketing tactic that’s working well is coupons—for kids wearing Halloween costumes, people in the armed forces, birthdays, kids on Sundays, etc. Getting free food often makes people less critical of its quality. That’s not why T.G.I. Friday’s does it (they do it to bring in business) but it’s a lucky additional benefit when the food isn’t anything to rave about. Perhaps they could tailor more of those coupons to the hip younger crowd and bring in even more of that business.

About Our Approach

This case study is a form of social media analysis called a netnography—a qualitative, interpretive research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of online communities.

To write this netnography, NetBase analyzed thousands of posts from consumers about the brand and identified the top positive and negative themes. The large-scale analysis is performed by a natural language processing (NLP) engine, then refined by human sampling.

To summarize a netnography as we’ve done here, we distill our findings into useful insights about how the brand we studied is positioned and perceived. We can provide our source data and confidence intervals for the percentages in the theme charts upon request.

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