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July 30, 2013

Friendly's buys upstate New York franchises

by Bera Dunau Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — The Friendly’s franchise on 377 Main St. in Oneonta, along with 34 others in upstate New York, has been acquired by the restaurant’s parent company.

Friendly’s Ice Cream, LLC announced the purchase Monday of 35 franchised restaurants in New York from the Kessler Family, LLC for an undisclosed amount.

“We’re happy that this initiative is allowing us to preserve the employment of over 1,300 Friendly’s employees in New York state,” said Friendly’s CEO John Maguire, in a statement released to the media. “As we look ahead to the future, we have every intention of maintaining the same level of commitment to these restaurants as the Kessler Family, LLC has had over the years.”

The purchase is scheduled to be finalized Wednesday, with Friendly’s assuming ownership the following day. No disruption of restaurant services is expected.

“The Kesslers had approached us some months ago,” said Maguire, speaking with The Daily Star.

Maguire said that the Kesslers had wanted to pursue other opportunities, and asked if Friendly’s was interested in purchasing their Friendly’s franchises, which Friendly’s indicated that they were.

“It was a reasonable price that worked for all parties concerned,” said Maguire, when asked for a purchase price for the 35 restaurants.

The eight other Friendly’s restaurants owned by the Kessler Family, LLC will be closing by the end of this week, in a move that Maguire said was done outside of the acquisition.

“On the Friendly’s side, we’re looking to place as many of those people as we can,” said Maguire, who added that the Kesslers were also looking to place some of the workers who will be laid off into their other restaurants.

Friendly’s hasn’t experienced an easy last few years, declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011 and emerging from bankruptcy protection in 2012. This bankruptcy saw approximately 100 Friendly’s locations close.

“Since doing that (emerging from bankruptcy) we’ve really been focused on repositioning the entire restaurant brand,” said Maguire.

Maguire said the focus of this repositioning has been on retraining staff and improving food and service.

“We really looked at the menu … inside and out,” said Maguire, saying that Friendly’s has started using real ice cream in its Fribble’s again, and made the transition to fresh, never-frozen burgers.

The restaurant has also added menu items like Slinky Dogs and Fish Tacos.

In order to promote this repositioning, Maguire said Friendly’s has been encouraging customers to return to Friendly’s through direct mail, their email list and community outreach, and that they plan to apply their repositioning efforts to the recently purchased New York restaurants.

As for expanding the franchise, Maguire said it’s possible.

“If we can deliver a great experience, there’s no reason we can’t.”

Maguire noted that a new location had opened in Delaware this year, and that Friendly’s was looking to open new restaurants in Connecticut, Rhode Island and the Boston area. He also said that Friendly’s was committed to the upstate New York market.

“I can’t overstate how excited (we are),” said Maguire. “We look forward to being a part of the community.”