T.G.I. Friday's closes Ward outlet
T.G.I. Friday's on Ward Avenue closed for good Monday after serving Blaisdell Center event-goers and nearby businessfolk since 1980.
"It was a very difficult decision, based on challenging economic times and personal difficulties," said Joe Khoury, president of T.G.I. Friday's franchisee Wesco Restaurant Group of Hawaii Inc.
The 8,300-square-foot restaurant at 950 Ward Ave., the first in Hawaii, had opened as a company-owned location. It had 50 employees.
"We want to thank our guests and the best team members in the restaurant business for their ongoing support for all these years," Khoury said.
It was sold by Texas-based Carlson Restaurants Worldwide in 1990 to Wesco, which opened a second location, at 2058 Kuhio Ave., in 1995.
Real estate consultant Stephany Sofos has worked with Wesco since getting it into the Waikiki location.
"There's been such an explosion of new restaurants," including at the nearby Ward Centers complex, Sofos said.
"And when you didn't have things going on at NBC, it was very quiet and there was not adequate parking. When you have that combination of not enough people in the area and the parking, it becomes very hard to make your dollars."
Sofos also cited rising food and labor costs. "It's come to the point of, 'how do you stop the bleeding,' and sometimes you just have to walk away."
No announcement has been made about the Waikiki Friday's.
"Everybody says everything's okay (in Waikiki)," but increasing numbers of visitors with time shares "are not going to restaurants ... they're cooking in their own homes," she said.
Wesco is in negotiations regarding the Waikiki restaurant, in the Ohana Maile Sky Court, a budget property owned by Outrigger Enterprises Inc.
"We hope that they continue, but it's been a very stressful last year," Sofos said.
Wesco signed a 15-year lease for the Ward space in 2002, but there is no chance T.G.I. Friday's Inc. will buy back the store, said Amy Freshwater, vice president of communications and public relations for parent company Carlson Restaurants.
However, "the Honolulu market is very important to us," she said. "It is our intention to be back in that area in the future."
T.G.I. Friday's announced in May a plan to grow by 60 locations each year, citing several markets including Maui and Kauai. "We actually are looking to establish a relationship with a new franchisee who ... will further develop the Hawaii market. That is still on track," Freshwater said.
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