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Friendly's set to open express unit

WILBRAHAM Mass. Friendly Ice Cream Corp. is opening its first fast-casual express unit Wednesday as it works to modernize the family-dining brand and become more competitive.

Called Friendly’s Express, the 2,200-square-foot store in Mansfield, Mass., will feature a limited version of the chain’s menu, including signature-item SuperMelt sandwiches, burgers, salads, and ice cream. All of the meals are priced at $10 or less.

Company officials said service times at the express unit are expected to average between six and eight minutes, making the average visit last 25 minutes, compared with 45 minutes at a traditional Friendly’s restaurant.

“This concept allows our customers to enjoy our great food in a short time period that fits their busy lifestyles,” said Jim Sullivan, vice president of franchising and development for the 500-unit Friendly's.

He added, “The concept works for our company because it allows us to expand rapidly into new real-estate formats while offering franchisees a property with a lower start-up cost and shorter turnaround time.”

Friendly's joins other chains opening restaurants with smaller footprints in order to expand into new areas. On Monday, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts debuted its first Neighborhood Shop and Kremery store, which at 1,750 feet is roughly half the size of the chain's traditional stores. Earlier this year, Baskin-Robbins said it would begin rolling out a 200-square-foot unit, called BR Express, that is intended for use in such on-site venues as airports and college campuses.

During the past several years, Friendly's has battled problems related to management conflicts and declining sales. The company, which was acquired by private-equity firm Sun Capital Partners in 2007, named a new president and chief executive late last year with the appointment of industry veteran Ned R. Lidvall.

Contact Elissa Elan at [email protected].

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