Friday, November 13, 2009

What happened to the Northborough Friendly's?

Since the kids didn't have school on Veteran's Day, we decided to head over to Friendly's in Northborough to take advantage of the $1.99 kids meals on Wednesdays.  Friendly's isn't remotely close to fine dining, but it HAD three appealing factors. 
  1. Speed, the food comes out fast and when kids are hungry calm to emotional can happen in seconds.
  2. Space, even during lunch and dinner rushes, the Northborough Friendly's seem to have enough space for everyone.
  3. Noise, even the most behaved children occasionally get loud.  It all blends into the noise level at Friendly's.
Basic stuff, and the food was ok.  For the past few years my visits were all decent, but something has been happening lately, and not for the good.  Unfortunately my experiences the past few months have been pretty poor.

On separate occasions over the spring and summer we took the family to eat lunch and had bad experiences attempting Sunday lunch.

The first time, we arrived at Friendly's at 11:50.  We were seated immediately and the server said they are now doing lunch.  That was our plan anyway so no issue there, we ordered immediately.  Basic order, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, mandarin salad, and a chicken sandwich.  It took till 12:10 to get drinks.  The kids were being good, but I started to worry a bit, we started the standard stare down wait staff till someone realizes you are looking for them. When the server stopped again it was 12: 25, we asked if our food was coming.  They said the grills had to be switched over and it should be up soon.  Ok, I understand, I once worked as a cook in college and it takes a little time to get things moving from a fresh start on the grill, but this seemed long.  At 12:45 we got our food.  Best case it was a 50 minute wait.  The manger on shift came by knowing we were a little annoyed and she tried to make amends and gave us one of the kids meals free.

Ok at this point, I say whatever, sometimes things go wrong.  But then a couple of weeks later it was the same thing.  This time it was 12:10 when we sat down and we didn't get our food till 1:20.  That time the waitress was new, and part of the delay was almost 30 minutes before she entered the order.  And that time the manager didn't offer anything, instead tried to tell me that when the waitress entered the order is when they start counting time.

The next time we ate there, it was the same weird extra long slowness, and the manager came out to tell us he had sent the other cook home cause it was slow.  Then it got busy and he was cooking.  The restaurant had no more then 8 tables full at the time, and I expect they are used to far more people.

After that experience, we stopped going for lunch on Sundays.  Took us long enough...

Then on Veteran's Day, the kids asked for Friendly's and we figured it wasn't a Sunday so we would give it a try.  We arrived at 12:30.  There were about 15 people waiting at that point, 7 were in one party, 2 parties of 2 people, and one party of 4.  Looking at the restaurant it was no more then 30% full, and many tables appeared to be having desert, so although we were a little concerned we waited to put our name in.  After 10 minutes a line had formed behind us and still no one working there had even acknowledged our presence.  Then we overheard the woman sitting and waiting next to us that she was already waiting for 40 minutes just to get a seat.  I had to give up.  That was it, after some convincing the kids choose Not Your Average Joe's in Westborough.

I don't expect a lot from Friendly's, reasonable food, cheap, quick.  Better then fast food, but still nothing spectacular.  Whoever is in charge at the Friendly's in Northborough is not paying attention to how the restaurant is run.  It seems they are always short a cook and wait staff is not on the ball.  I am not saying running a restaurant is easy, and the employees desiring to work at Friendly's may not be Harvard educated, driven professionals but in this economy there has to be reasonable employees out there, and some leadership that can organize and guide them.

Something needs to be done, with options like Joe's, Chateau, Uno's, the other Friendly's all right down the road, I can't see Friendly's Northborough lasting much longer with this type of service.  I know I have removed it from my list as a standard.  I actively try to steer the kids to other locations if they ask now.  I am sure I can't be the only patron to have these experiences.


  1. If you are looking for a Friendly's that has better service, you should try the Westboro Friendly's, on the corner of Route 9 & 30. The place is a whole lot smaller, but the service is that much quicker.

  2. Hi - My name is Vinny Miele and I am the District Manager for this area. I apologize that you have had poor experiences at this restaurant and would like to discuss them further with you. Please contact me at with the best way and most convenient time to contact you. I look forward to hearing from you.

  3. Except for an occasional ice cream cone, I stopped going to all Friendly's for this very reason - too many times with very slow service.

  4. For anyone interested to know, I did send an email to Vinny Miele over the Thanksgiving holiday. I am impressed that the Friendly's management team is watching the internet for comments on their business. It does show that someone cares about the service and perception in the local communities. We'll see where that leads.