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.