TGI Fridays's Origin Story: A Pioneering Singles Bar
Today, the TGI Fridays restaurant chain is synonymous with suburbia—a far cry from its origins as one of world’s first big city singles bars. Great Big Story interviewed Alan Stillman, an enterprising perfume salesman who made an unlikely foray into the hospitality industry when he opened the very first TGI Fridays on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in 1965.
At the time, Stillman was single and ready to mingle, but it wasn’t easy to meet women outside the cocktail party circuit. TGI Fridays was intended to be “a cocktail party you didn’t need an invitation to,” he explains to Great Big Story.
Stillman's plan was a smashing success: The venue “attracted more singles from the neighborhood than anyone could have imagined,” he recalls. Today, more than 900 TGI Fridays exist worldwide—and even though the vibe and clientele have evolved over the decades, it’s still fun to remember the restaurant as a raucous watering hole—and Stillman as the bartending bachelor who reportedly inspired Tom Cruise’s character in the 1988 film Cocktail.