Social distancing signs will be just as prominent as the chain’s signature red-and-white color scheme. A full-time sanitarian, whose sole job is to thoroughly wipe down and disinfect surfaces between customers, will be present in each establishment, too.
“The dining room looks a little bizarre because you’re never sitting close to anyone else,” TGI Fridays CEO Ray Blanchette told TODAY Food.
Last week, the chain reopened 21 dining rooms in Texas, while seven locations in Florida resumed dine-in services on Tuesday. All reopened at 25% of their usual capacity.
A handful of franchised TGI Fridays have also reopened in Oklahoma and Missouri; all are operating under the same guidelines.
However, don't halt your Zoom happy hour just yet. In "most" locations, the bar area is still closed and bar stools are out of service, Blanchette added.
Fifty seven more TGI Fridays are scheduled to reopen by May 22 in states including Arkansas, Ohio and Virginia.
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Every TGI Fridays — including those that are independently owned — will follow the same playbook for reopening. To reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus and other germs, all employees must pass a health check prior to each shift. They are also required to wear employer-provided personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks and gloves, at all times.
“We’re encouraging team members to have fun with their PPE so it doesn’t feel like an operating room,” Blanchette said.
Though patrons are not required to cover their faces, signage states that all customers should “follow social distancing and sanitary guidelines.”
Laminated menus have been replaced by single-use, disposable ones, and gone are the days of clamoring around the hostess stand while waiting for a table.
“We encourage people to hang out in their car to avoid crowding," Blanchette revealed. “When a table frees up, we send them a text."
Blanchette, who spent time at a TGI Fridays in Texas on Saturday, described the vibe as "optimistic."
“People are excited to get back some some sense of normalcy,” he said.