It’s a marriage that fast-foodies have only dreamed of: Fribble meets Whopper.
Friendly’s Ice Cream has teamed up with Burger King to feature both chains’ offerings under one roof at a new location in New Jersey.
“Friendly’s Scoop’’ is the first co-branded shop tested by the Wilbraham company and executives hope the concept will help it grow. Friendly’s expects to open up to 10 more of the smaller hybrid shops over the next year, including in Massachusetts.
“This will help increase awareness of Friendly’s throughout 50 states instead of just 16,’’ Friendly’s chief executive Harsha Agadi said. “It opens up a whole avenue of growth to go into nontraditional locations, such as airports, stadiums, and hospitals.’’
Friendly’s Scoop, a 200-square-foot counter space serving frozen treats, opened several weeks ago in Jackson, N.J. It is operated by Burger King franchisee Joe Anghelone, who approached executives at the Home of the Whopper and Home of the Fribble with his co-branding idea more than two years ago.
“I was looking to increase the snack offerings and for a concept that was going to give incremental sales,’’ said Anghelone, who runs 13 Burger King shops in central New Jersey. “I didn’t want to open up a pizza place or chicken place that would compete with the burgers.’’
It’s too early to tell whether sales at the new location are higher compared with existing Burger Kings, but Anghelone said ice cream revenues currently account for 18 percent of total sales, far exceeding his expectations. Burger King officials did not respond to calls seeking comment.
‘This will help increase awareness of Friendly’s.’Harsha Agadi Friendly’s chief executive
“It’s encouraging because this is January. I expect it will go much higher when we get into the spring and summer,’’ Anghelone said.
In some ways, Friendly’s Scoop is a return to the company’s roots. Friendly’s was founded by Prestley and Curtis Blake, brothers who started a neighborhood ice cream store in Springfield during the Great Depression in 1935. Over the next several decades, they opened hundreds of restaurants offering food along with ice cream, carving a niche in the market as a family-friendly spot before they began feuding over the direction the business would take. They sold it to Hershey in 1979 and it has changed ownership several times since then.
In recent years, the restaurants have struggled to compete with casual-dining alternatives, such as Panera. Other business missteps prompted Friendly’s to file for bankruptcy protection last fall. The company reorganized, shuttering about 100 underperforming shops, and emerged from Chapter 11 this month.
The co-branding strategy has yielded mixed results at other merchants over the years. YUM! Brands, which runs Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut, and other chains, has hundreds of combo locations across the country.
Dunkin’ Brands embraced co-branded stores years ago, offering both Dunkin’ Donuts and its sister brand, Baskin-Robbins, under one roof. The Canton chain has placed less emphasis on the format in recent years, and instead focused more on growing stand-alone Dunkin’ Donuts shops.
“You do have to be selective,’’ said John Dawson, chief development officer for Dunkin’ Brands. “It’s not about slapping two brands under one roof. You have to make sure that you design them in the right place and operate them under the right conditions.’’
Carl’s Jr. has struggled with its Green Burrito twinned format on the West Coast and many other co-branded ideas have also faced challenges, according to Ron Paul, president of Technomic Inc., a Chicago market research firm.
But Paul says opening an ice cream-only format inside Burger King makes sense for Friendly’s and can help introduce new customers to the Fribble. The start-up cost is also far below that of regular Friendly’s restaurants, which are typically around 2,500 square feet.
“If the concepts are complimentary and it doesn’t mess up operations, co-branding is a valid strategy,’’ Paul said. “I think burgers and ice cream can work, as long as they have enough traffic.’’Jenn Abelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.