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Wise Up: Who's going to Friendly's?

10 out of 10 people polled have not been to the Friendly’s on Frederick Road in the past few years. Who are its customers?

This week Wise Up sent me on a gastronomic adventure to Friendly’s--a restaurant in a prime location on Catonsville’s main corridor, that many folks don’t consider for a meal or even a takeout scoop of ice cream.

Ten out of ten parents polled outside of l say they never consider Friendly’s as a restaurant option, either with their families or with friends. When asked about the source of their dissatisfaction, most say they were initially excited to learn a Friendly’s was coming to Catonsville, but were disappointed by extremely slow service upon visiting the eatery in its first year or two of business. This service was so poor it has dissuaded them from a return visit ever since.

I, too, have had a few forgettable experiences at this restaurant in the past, and was decidedly hesitant to re-visit what I remembered as a fairly slow and unfriendly Friendly's. However, journalistic integrity demanded I investigate, so, on a recent weekday evening I covertly entered the Frederick Road establishment cleverly disguised as a middle-aged woman with husband and kids. Greeted by a friendly hostess, our family was immediately seated. Within 5 minutes, a server came by to take a drink order, and within 10 minutes a food order was taken and drinks were served. Twenty minutes after being seated, the food arrived; hot and tasty, it was generally agreed by all at the table that the food was good (the level of satisfaction correlated with the age of the family member and the level of frying involved in the food preparation).

Following dinner, ice cream, disguised as monsters and multi-scoop sundaes, arrived after a reasonable wait. General consensus at the table (as indicated by grunts) was that the ice cream was delicious.

All of us agreed that the server was friendly and helpful. The restaurant was about 25 percent full and there was enough staff available to accommodate at least twice the crowd. The floors and booths were fairly clean, the ladies bathroom not so much.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to have had an enjoyable, chain-quality meal.

Kwan Green, shift manager, says the Catonsville location has been enjoying good business. The store is doing well and there are no plans to close this location, unlike the that were forced to shut their doors after the company filed for bankruptcy in late 2011. 

According to Green, the busiest times for the restaurant are Friday through Sunday, with the clientele ranging from families to couples. Many area residents use the restaurant for business meals. The store also hosts school fundraising efforts as well.

"On my shift, one thing I really don't like is complaints of bad service," said Green. "I want the customer to leave here happy."

Based on my kids' approval, it seems Friendly's has become considerably friendlier.

Gina April 26, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I wouldn't take my kids to dinner there because their food seems less healthy then McDonalds! However we were excited that they were there for ice cream since Baskin Robbins closed down several years ago on Rolling Rd. The few times we have been there for carry out ice cream we have ended up walking out w/o our ice cream because they took so long to even greet us at the counter! I've walked in there with no one else waiting and listened to a group of girls complain about their jobs and other employees all loud enough for me to hear, I was looked at several times and not a word was said to me. Another time we walked in and were greeted by two employees arguing over who's job it was to make the ice creams for the resturant side and that time we walked out as well. It's a shame we have an ice cream spot about 2 miles (if that) from our house and we still would rather to waste the gas and make the trip to Columbia for Cold Stone and pay twice as much for ice cream. I can't ever remember getting bad service at Cold Stone!
Jackie Scott April 26, 2012 at 04:21 PM
My relationship with the Catonsville Friendly's stopped about 12 years ago-- shortly after it opened-- when I went with my baby boy and older brothers and waited forever for service. Last summer, when visiting family in New England, I took my kids to the one in West Hartford, CT-- a place that I had frequented in my early years. "Now, you are really going to experience Friendly's the way its supposed to be done!" I told them. Well, about an hour later, we got our meal. Our server was very annoyed with the cook in the kitchen (there was only one) "I guess this is how it's supposed to be done," my daughter said to me. "I guess so," I replied. How reassuring.
Gil Fong April 26, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Not sure why, but every friendly's I've ever gone to has had slow service.
rc May 16, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Irish gastropub with shuffleboard tables.
Patricia May 24, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I have stopped taking my family to this location a few years back, the wait staff was a toss up, the kitchen was slow, that was what I could deal with, what I could not deal with was the disgusting bathrooms and general filth of the place. Catonsville has a ton of other great options, that Friendly's is off of our radar.

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