Carlson may sell TGI Fridays restaurant chain and the real billion dollar questions are who invented Long Island Iced Tea and Happy Hour

Carlson Companies is reported to be placing TGI Fridays restaurant chain up for sale. TGI Fridays is valued at about $1 billion by industry analysts.

Carlson Companies, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, purchased TGI Fridays global restaurant chain in 1975. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is the parent of Radisson, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, Park Plaza and Hotel Missoni brands.

TGI Fridays corporate HQ is based in Carrollton, Texas. Since opening the initial 1965 popular bar and restaurant in New York (no longer exists), the TGIF restaurant chain has grown to 934 locations in more than 60 countries.

Of more interest to me about the TGI Fridays news story hitting the press are the statements in the New York Times and FOX Business News articles:

The restaurant chain claims credit for creating the drink known as the Long Island Iced Tea.

New York Times – Nov 22, 2013

Several news articles about TGI Fridays include the claim the Long Island Ice Tea drink was invented at TGI Fridays.

Not according to this PBS video on You Tube with Robert Butts, the man who claims to have concocted the drink at a mixology contest at the Oak Beach Inn Long Island in 1972.

He has a website too, called what?

Started in 1965 in New York City, today Fridays has more than 900 locations in more than 60 countries and is considered a leader in the American casual bar and grill dining category. Carlson noted a number of “iconic firsts” for TGI Fridays, including the original Happy Hour and creation of Long Island Iced Tea.

Fox Business News Nov 25, 2013

I did a little bit of internet research into the Happy Hour phrase. Numerous articles attribute the origin of Happy Hour to the U.S. Navy in the 1920s. In 1959 ‘Happy Hour’ was used in a Saturday Evening Post article.

The True Meaning of Happy Hour – April 2012.

I did not find any reference to the origin of either ‘Long Island Iced Tea’ or ‘Happy Hour’ with a connection to TGI Fridays. Seems like a billion dollar business claiming to have invented the Long Island Iced Tea and the original Happy Hour would have something on their website supporting those claims. These events do not appear on the TGI Fridays History webpage.

TGI Fridays Oslo Norway

TGI Friday’s in Oslo, Norway with $15 beer (March 2013) kept me outside.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. Perhaps more relevant to this blog is the fact that Friday’s has their own loyalty program, called “Stripes”. The awards vary a bit, but on average it amounts to an 8-10% rebate. The program has elite benefits (“skip the line” passes)), and it’s even trackable via AwardWallet.

    Earn is spend-based, but rewards are specific menu items, so you can even game the system a bit by saving your redemptions for high-priced locations, like at the airport…

  2. You aren’t missing anything in their dining outlets Ric, we don’t go either, but my wife and I do enjoy their Buffalo Wings that they sell in the supermarket.

  3. I was in the Navy in 1959 at the naval base Guantanamo Bay Cuba where we had happy hour every evening until 18:00 at the enlisted mens club. Ten cents for rum & coke.

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