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Friendly’s restaurant chain reinvents itself

Friendly Ice Cream LLC CEO John Maguire says the Wilbraham-based company is in the process of renovating many of its 114 company and 247 franchised restaurants.

Menu changes include real hard ice cream instead of soft serve to make Fribble milk shakes; haddock instead of the cheaper pollock in the iconic Fishamajig sandwich; and fresh meat instead of frozen patties for the hamburgers.

Fresh red velvet waffle cones are also being made at the soda fountains, so guests smell them as soon as they come in.

Maguire tells The Republican newspaper that even the music being piped into restaurants has changed.

Friendly’s, founded in 1935, filed for bankruptcy protection in late 2011, closed 100 of its restaurants and shed about 2,000 employees.

Maguire came on board last April after previously working for Panera.

Five of the newly-renovated restaurants are in the greater Springfield area, and another five are in Maine. The CEO said the company is aiming to renovate 30 more locations this year.

The changes do not affect Friendly’s locations in Northampton and Florence, a company spokeswoman said.

Company officials say employees were retrained to focus on faster service and a cleaner restaurant, and some got new job titles, too. A soda fountain worker is known as a “scoopologist” and wait staff are known as “memory-makers.”

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