Friendly’s to debut, roll out smaller format

Mansfield, Mass. Friendly Ice Cream Corp. is opening a new, fast-casual, smaller-footprint restaurant on Wednesday that it hopes will be expandable along the Eastern Seaboard.

According to the Boston Globe, the first Friendly’s Express will open in Mansfield, Mass., featuring a limited menu a notch above fast food.

The 2,200-sq.-ft. restaurant is about one-third smaller than a typical Friendly’s and represents, according to the Globe, an effort by the struggling company to enter one of the few growth areas in the restaurant business: delivering fresh, made-to-order food in a convenient setting.

Sales have dropped 7.0% over the past five years as the 504-restaurant Friendly’s chain has shuttered underperforming stores and battled problems with poor management and declining service.

The smaller Friendly’s Express is expected to be a good growth vehicle for franchisees, costing about $600,000 to build, half as much as the average unit. The smaller footprint will fit into a wider variety of real estate options.

Friendly’s, which also runs corporate restaurants, will open one more Express location this year in Boston or Providence, R.I., and another five in 2010, said the Globe, with projections of opening up to 300 East Coast restaurants.