The Massachusetts-based restaurant chain Friendly’s declared bankruptcy over the weekend and will be sold to Amici Partners Group for just under $2 million, with lenders reportedly waiving close to $88 million in secured debt. Amici Partners Group is affiliated with Brix Holdings, which owns chains such as Red Mango (which sells frozen yogurt and smoothies) and Texas-based buffet chain Souper Salad (which is not related to the now-defunct Boston restaurants by the same name).
Founded as an ice cream shop named Friendly in Springfield in 1935 and headquartered in Wilbraham since 1960, the Friendly’s restaurant chain is a familiar sight to Massachusetts natives — and those beyond. In its heyday, it had hundreds of locations across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest regions of the United States; these days, the remaining 130 locations are mostly concentrated in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic with a few scattered around the South.
Friendly’s — which evolved from an ice cream shop into a full-service, family-friendly restaurant serving pancakes, burgers, and such (and still plenty of ice cream) — first filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in 2011, closing 63 “underperforming” locations (out of around 500 total), including 30 in Massachusetts. At the time, the company reportedly cited factors such as a general economic downturn, high rents, and increased prices of commodities, particularly cream, an unavoidable ingredient at a chain known for its ice cream sundaes and Fribble milkshakes.
The company unsurprisingly mentions the “catastrophic impact of COVID-19” as a factor in the 2020 Chapter 11 filing, noting that Friendly’s had been making “important strides toward reinvigorating our beloved brand” over the past couple of years when interrupted by the pandemic. (It had already been “losing money for some time” before this weekend’s filing and went up for sale in 2019 before the pandemic interrupted the process.)
For Bostonians craving a Hunka Chunka PB Fudge sundae or a chocolate Fribble, the nearest locations are in East Boston (at the airport) and Peabody. Most major grocery stores also carry Friendly’s ice cream and frozen novelties such as the iconic Wattamelon Roll.
• Friendly’s Declares Bankruptcy and Will Be Sold to the Owner of Red Mango [RBO]
• Iconic Restaurant Chain Friendly’s Files for Bankruptcy [Bloomberg]
• Friendly’s Files for Bankruptcy [in 2011] [Forbes]