TGI Fridays doesn’t get much recognition these days. It’s mostly thought of as a generic “neighborhood bar” chain in the same vein as Chili’s and Applebee’s. But, when it first launched in New York City five decades ago, Fridays was ahead of its time. In this video, founder Alan Stillman explains how he created what may have been the world’s first singles bar.
“The technique, at the time, was that during the week people would make phone calls, and then you would organize with a group of people and you would all end up at different cocktail parties,” Stillman says in the video, describing the typical method for meeting prospective dates in 1965. “Which basically is what TGI Fridays was meant to be: a cocktail party that you didn’t need an invitation to.”
Fridays quickly became a popular destination, so famous that eventually actor Tom Cruise would play a character inspired by Stillman in the movie Cocktail. Not only did Stillman pioneer the concept of cramming a bunch of young, unattached people into crowded bar, he believes Fridays may have invented another phenomenon: the line.
“I was there one evening tending bar, and one of the waiters came up to me and said, ‘Listen, there’s half a dozen people outside that want to come in; what do we do?’” Stillman recalls. “I walked out from behind the bar about a half an hour later, and there were 20 people standing out there. So we may have created the first line in the history of the restaurant business.”
The first singles bar, the first line, and, perhaps, the first destination for loaded potato skins: It might be time for TGI Fridays to get a little more credit as an American institution.