Slowing foot traffic metrics were canary in coal mine for Friendly's closings

1 week ago by James Mattone in Features

Friendly's ($FRIENDLYS) closed 23 stores in New England and New York state this past week, as it repositions itself and shrinks its footprint to remain competitive.

Founded in Springfield, Massachusetts, the diner-style chain restaurant known for 22 ice-cream flavors is privately-owned by Sun Capital Partners, who bought the chain's restaurants in 2007 for $337 million. Before the closures, it had 221 stores that covered the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Florida.

The 23 closures represent over 10% of the company's retail stable. The closures happened so suddenly that U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer asked for an investigation into it. However, according to alternative data we've tracked via publicly-available Facebook trends, it seems that this truly was a "months-long" decision as described by CEO George Michael.

Here's why.

In terms of voluntary check-ins, the number of people posting about Friendly's on location has gone down over the past year. This not only means that people are removing posts or deleting their accounts, but also that not many people are posting about being in Friendly's,

In terms of non-voluntary foot traffic tracked by "Were Here Count," Friendly's still had an increase, but when comparing change in "Were Here Count" quarter-over-quarter, there was a slowdown over the past year.

What is interesting is that, in the weeks leading up to these closures, there was a spike in "Were Here Count" at Friendly's locations. That leaves open the theory that patrons may have had a "last hurrah sundae" at locations that were set to close down.

Who's next? Denny's? TGI Friday's? Dine Brands Global Portfolio?

With the retail apocalypse in full swing, delivery companies fighting in a turf war for customers, and companies focusing on a delivery mindset, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Friendly's competitors who directly fought for patrons with the now-closed Friendly's.

The diner-style American food Friendly's serves can be comparable to Denny's ($NASDAQ:DENN) or even TGI Friday's ($TGIFRIDAYS). Given that our database has the closed Friendly's locations, as well as the locations of these chains, we're able to see which competing brand resides close to where Friendly's vacated the premises.

Among these brands' portfolios, here is a look at the closest chain restaurant in proximity to each of the closed Friendly's:

Closed Friendly’s Street

Closed Friendly’s City

State

Nearest Restaurant #1

Nearest Distance #1 (Miles)

Nearest Store Street #1

Nearest Store City #1

3540 McKinley Parkway

Blasdell

NY

Applebee's

0.111

4405 Milestrip Road

Blasdell

3275 Erie Boulevard

Dewitt

NY

Applebee's

0.200

3189 Erie Blvd.East

Dewitt

3081 West Ridge Road

Rochester

NY

Denny's

0.268

2890 W. RIDGE ROAD

ROCHESTER

48 Western Avenue

Augusta

ME

Applebee's

0.384

136 Western Ave

Augusta

4081 Route 31

Clay

NY

Applebee's

0.426

3975 Route 31

Liverpool

81 Newtown Road

Danbury

CT

Denny's

0.496

61 NEWTOWN RD

DANBURY

1148 Front Street

Binghamton

NY

Denny's

0.527

1250 UPPER FRONT ST.

BINGHAMTON

4350 Maple Road

Amherst

NY

IHOP

0.614

4003 Maple Rd

AMHERST

6651 Transit Road

Williamsville

NY

Applebee's

0.698

5017 Transit Road

Williamsville

27 Temple Street

Framingham

MA

IHOP

0.730

17 Edgell Road

FRAMINGHAM

162 West Street

Keene

NH

Applebee's

0.732

40 Key Road

Keene

377 Main Street

Oneonta

NY

Denny's

0.771

4979 STATE HWY 23

ONEONTA

149 Daniel Webster Highway

Nashua

NH

IHOP

1.031

230 Daniel Webster Hwy

NASHUA

3701 James Street

Syracuse

NY

Denny's

1.396

6591 THOMPSON ROAD

SYRACUSE

544 Reidville Drive

Waterbury

CT

IHOP

1.725

495 Union Street, Suite 2168

WATERBURY

4 Spencerport Road

Rochester

NY

Applebee's

2.383

2120 Chili Ave.

Rochester

301 East Main Street

Endicott

NY

TGI Fridays

2.657

2445 Vestal Pkwy E

Vestal

3935 Dewey Avenue

Greece

NY

Applebee's

2.845

200 Paddy Creek Circle

Rochester

10 South Main St.

Jamestown

NY

Applebee's

3.056

340 East Fairmount Avenue

Lakewood

1111 Lexington Street

Waltham

MA

IHOP

5.364

1850 Soldiers Field Road

BRIGHTON

1060 Main Street

Holden

MA

Denny's

5.569

494 LINCOLN ST

WORCESTER

519 Heritage Road

Southbury

CT

TGI Fridays

10.979

335 Union St

Waterbury

192-196 West Bridge Street

Oswego

NY

Applebee's

23.550

3975 Route 31

Liverpool

For these companies, the Friendly's closures means that either these companies will get a boost of traffic in these areas... Or this was an omen for the markets that have potentially run dry.

Anthony Tapias contributed to reporting this piece.

James Mattone

James is the Associate Editor at Thinknum Media, and he has an interest in video games, music, and tech news. You can find him on Twitter @TheJamesMattone.

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