FOREST HILLS — The neighborhood TGI Friday’s recently underwent a complete makeover as part of an experiment by the restaurant chain to update its design.
The chain restaurant at 70-00 Austin St. abandoned its classic diner-like aesthetic of booths and dark colors and replaced it with a modern style featuring open space, light furniture made of blonde wood and brighter lighting.
General manager Kevin Morrison said the Austin Street outpost, along with another in Corpus Christi, Texas, will serve as prototypes for what may later be adopted at other locations.
The Forest Hills site was selected for the makeover because of the neighborhood's diversity and heavy foot traffic on Austin Street, he added. It took about a month to redesign the location, he said.
“We want to reach the business people that work in the area, sports crowd and local families that want to try a different menu,” he said.
Visitors to the eatery can sit in couches while they dine, there is a hangout area for sports fans, armchairs are available for couples and tables include ports for computers, Morrison said.
The location also now features a “grab and go” section, which boasts fresh sandwiches and salads, snack boxes, various juices and pastries.
“We open at 7 a.m. every day, so this is ideal for anyone on the way to work or those who want to have a quick lunch during lunch break,” Morrison said.
The eatery also introduced brunch on weekends, installed new TV sets around the entire restaurant and kicked off late-night events such as trivia nights, lip-sync battles and live music.
The menu has also been expanded to include more "shareable items," like chicken lettuce wraps and spinach and queso dip, the chain said.
Patrons had mixed reactions to the changes following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday night.
“I like the open feel, the brightness, the modern design,” said Lisa Garvey, 27, a therapist who lives in the area and comes to the restaurant several times a month.
But others said that the new design does not give them enough privacy.
“I think it’s very nice, but I didn’t expect for it to be so open,” said Liz Newton, 40, an attorney who comes to the restaurant four to five times a week.