After eight months, interior upgrades and staff training, the local T.G.I. Friday's restaurant in the Overseas Market will reopen March 11 under the ownership and management of local restaurateur Joe Walsh.
"We bought it in July, but needed to bring some of the interior design up to the franchise specifications," Walsh told The Citizen on Wednesday. "We also had to be sure that I and the management staff were all properly trained in the Friday's service style."
Since the change of hands and resulting closure, many employees from the casual dining chain have been working in Walsh's other local restaurants, which include Jack Flats, Mangoes, Red Fish Blue Fish, Caroline's and Fogarty's.
"A bunch of the staff have been working in our other stores, and I'd estimate that about half of the former Friday's staff will be returning when we reopen next month," Walsh said, adding that they are now hiring additional bartenders, servers and kitchen staff.
He acknowledged that access to the restaurant will be "a little challenging" due to the North Roosevelt Boulevard construction.
"As the locals know, we're fortunate to have alternative access from Kennedy Drive and 12th Street behind Kmart and Winn-Dixie," he said.
Renovations to the Key West location include remodeled restrooms, a new contemporary interior design, renovated foyer and upgraded kitchen, according to a company press release.
"Friday's features new table tops, seating, lighting and music to enhance the experience ... . And Friday's is elevating its level of service with a focus on providing a tailored and seamless experience that anticipates guests' needs ... ," the release states.
Walsh complimented his "talented and friendly" bartenders as well and kitchen and wait staff. "We're excited to show off everything we've been doing," he said, inviting diners back to experience the improved food, service and appearance.
Walsh had told The Citizen in September that he hoped to have the restaurant reopened in October -- four months ago -- but issues involving the previous owner, franchise agreements and corporate offices delayed those plans.
Walsh referred questions about those issues to corporate officials in Texas, who did not return phone calls.
Carlson Restaurants Inc. is the parent company of the T.G.I. Friday's chain and operates, franchises and licenses more than 1,000 locations in 61 countries, according to the company website.