Thank God It’s Tuesday!

Well it is September 12, 2006 and the scheduled opening date for TGI Friday’s in David. My buddy Jerry and I had set a date to meet and have lunch on the first day. We decided to meet at 11:00 and ignore any concerns about the cost and just have a good time. Jerry said it was a good occasion to celebrate because it was his son’s birthday. So back in the US (you know who you are) “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”!

One of the Type “A” personality traits that I have never been able to break is the need to be early for an appointment. Being late just drives me nuts. So at five minutes before 11:00 I arrived at TGI Friday’s. Jerry, obviously another Type “A” personality, was waiting for me. Of course I had an excuse. I knew there were a couple of photos I would want to take before entering Friday’s.

The banner went up sometime yesterday.

Here are the posted hours of operation. More about that later.

Jerry and I had plenty of time to talk before they opened the doors. This is a new operation and they still have a few bugs to work out, so if you come make sure to load up on an extra helping of patience.

By my watch it was about 11:07 when they said it was ok to enter.

As you refer back to the posted hours, I will tell you that as I entered they told me the kitchen would not open until 12:00, but not to worry.

That was not a problem for Jerry and I as we came to have a relaxed time in a cool restaurant. Besides which I had just taken my second patience tablet. As we entered they were just finishing their rah rah session to pump up the employees to be ready to meet their first official customers (numbers one and two being Jerry and I).

No sooner than Jerry and I had taken our seat, Nadya greeted us. With this friendly smile, how could we help but have a great time!

She handed up out the menus, so lets go through the menu together.

First things first. I haven’t had a good margarita in well over a year. My options were the Ultimate margarita for $7.25 as shown on this page or the TGI Friday’s Regular margarita for $4.50. I ordered the regular margarita. Jerry had a draft beer for $2.50.

Ok, now moving to the appetizers. Jerry and I decided to share an order of Loaded Potato Skins. Tack on another $9.25. I mean you only live once and Jerry and I had agreed we were going to have a good time and the cost be damned.

The soup of the day was beef and vegetable. Neither Jerry nor I ordered soup or a salad.

Now we come to the tough part, the main course. I had convinced myself last night that I would have a burger. However, looking at the menu, there were other temptations. I quickly had my choices down to a Jack Daniel’s Burger, a Sizzlin Fajita Tower, or a Pepperjack Smothered Steak. I chose the Jack Daniel’s Burger and Jerry went for Mushroom Onion Swiss Burger. That is another $6.95 each.

With that behind us I was ready to relax and enjoy my margarita and Jerry his Atlas draft. My margarita was as good as I remembered it in the US.

The bar area was fully supplied and the only thing missing was people to serve.

As time went by, more customers started to enter. Jerry and were commenting on our having a little sticker shock at seeing the prices. I probably had less shock as I had eaten at Tony Roma’s in Panama City recently. But we wondered how the general population would react to prices. While we were pondering this, a smartly dressed young family entered, a Panamanian husband and wife and their three young boys. Jerry commented that he hoped the father had brought plenty of money.

They were seated directly across the room from me in a booth and I couldn’t help but watch. The boys were so excited. They were given special mats and crayons and later they were brought balloons. I watched as the parents studied the menu. Shortly they got up and left without ordering. Jerry has been in the restaurant business and said they really ought to place a menu outside so it could be read before a person entered. He passed that comment on the to the management. It has to be embarrassing for a father to take his family out to a new place only to realize after seeing the menu that he can’t afford to spend over $35 dollars for five burgers. I felt sorry for him and support Jerry’s recommendation to TGI Friday’s management.

Remember I said you need to be patient because this is a new operation and I am sure everything is complex for the staff compared to other restaurants in the Chiriquí area. Several minutes after ordering the burgers, Nadya returned and asked how we would like our meat cooked. I am sure next time she will ask when she takes the order. These are the kind of things you ought to expect especially on the first day of business. Nadya was so cute, I got a kick out of watching her do her best to make us happy.

More time elapses and we were beginning to think we would get the burgers and the potato skins at the same time, when the skins arrived. I took the first skin and asked Jerry to bide his time a little while I took a photo. Jerry and I liked the skins, but I thought there was something missing. Later Jerry said he thought it was the cheese. Jerry and I are used to a sharp cheddar cheese and this was a mild ala longhorn flavored cheese. Maybe it has been too long and they are just like the states, but we thought they need a little more zip.

With one skin to go (Jerry’s – I have always been a fast eater), the burgers arrived. Jerry had been wise and ordered his burger cooked medium. I asked for mine to be three quarters done. Mine came in well done and Jerry’s looked correct. That is not a problem for me. I would rather have it more cooked than less cooked. I never want a burger that is still able to walk off my plate. By the way, the Jack Daniel’s sauce was very good.

My margarita expired and I asked for a glass of water. Nadya was embarrassed to return and tell me that they had a problem and water wasn’t available. Turns out it wasn’t available in the bathrooms either.

At the end of the meal, Jerry and I considered the dessert menu. After a little thought we both concluded that we really couldn’t eat any more, but we decided to order a special coffee. They had specialty coffees for between $3.90 and $4.25. I forget what we ordered, but after about 10 minutes Nayda came back with the sad news that what we ordered, they couldn’t make. She suggested a couple others. We took her suggestion and she sped off. Looking at their well-stocked liquor shelves, it wasn’t because they didn’t have the ingredients, it was because they hadn’t deciphered the drink recipe book. Again, this is nothing but the trials and tribulations of a new inexperienced staff. When the coffee came, I forgot to take its photo. I am still being trained also.

After the jubilado discounts for Jerry and I, la cuenta came out to a little over $36.00. We left $20 each. So lets reflect a little on our experience.

First, Jerry and I had a great time. We enjoyed seeing the employees step up to the challenge of a different type of restaurant, which is obviously catering to an upper income portion of Panama in David and to foreigners that have moved here or vacationers. They want to do a good job. One of the senior managers came over to the table incase we needed assistance because she spoke English. She was surprised that Jerry, Nadya and I had things well in hand in Español. Everyone employed in TGI Friday’s that I saw today, presented a good work ethic and represented the company well.

Second, the prices are going to be pushing the limit I think for David. While the food is very good, a Panamanian earning $8.00 a day is not going to be bringing his family here. For that reason I think TGI Friday’s should put a menu outside. I didn’t like to see a father embarrassed and have to take his three sons home, without eating, after they had been so excited.

Third, if you are coming to Friday’s be prepared for a very cool environment. One lady had to leave and I was surprised to see her return with a sweater. Not many people carry sweaters around in their car in David. She must have been from Boquete.

Forth, I personally thought the music was far too loud. Maybe on a Friday night when the restaurant is packed I might not have noticed it, but today Jerry and I felt like we were shouting to make ourselves heard.

Now I have been there and done that. Maybe once a month or two I can handle and American meal attached to an American price, but for the most part I have become accustomed to Panama food and Panama prices. I feel like there is enough people in the Chiriqui area that will go to Friday’s for it to make a go of it. David, Boquete and other areas in Chiriquí are attracting foreigners who may not even care about the price. Add to that the upper income Panamanians who will want a change in menu every now and then. Then a certain number of the young will spend all they have to impress a girl once in a while. I am sure that Friday’s did their business analysis before choosing to build and obviously Plaza El Terronal is drawing a higher income client base.

Welcome TGI Friday’s. It is good to have you in David.

Oh, and those of you reading this in the US, I would be interested in how the Panama Friday’s prices are compared to the US Friday’s prices.

16 thoughts on “Thank God It’s Tuesday!

  1. It has been over a year since I was in the US but at the time I went with a friend to TGI Fridays and YUP, the menu entries and the prices at the ones in Panama City were exactly the same. (I went in to one on returning to verify.) Interesting seeing how labor (which is considered the majority of the costs in fast food joints) in Panama is less than 1/6 that of the US. Tells me that they only have to sell one burger to make the same money one in the US selling 6 burgers.

  2. It seems like Friday’s prices were closer to local prices in Indonesia, but I didn’t eat there very often. I’m glad you enjoyed your margarita; I think I’ll go make myself one ;-).

    Tuxi

  3. Springfield, Ill., here. (You probably know that.) I absolutely loved your review.

    My daughter and I go to the Fridays here a couple times a year. Partly because it’s on the other side of town; partly because of the prices; and partly because we don’t get too excited over chain restaurants. Although, I remember when we got one of our first chain restaurants (other than fast food ones). I think it was Applebee’s. I remember being very excited over the prospects of having some place new to eat. So, I can definitely appreciate your excitement.

    The last time I went to Fridays, I got the angel hair pasta and chicken frechetta dish. It’s about $10.00 which is a little pricey for pasta. But, it’s a very good dish and I would probably never make it that way at home.

    Your potato skins seemed way over-priced. Other than that, everything else seemed in line with ours. I think the trick to getting lower drink prices is to go on days when they have your favorite drink on special.

    One thing I will say for the Fridays here is, the help is always friendly and enthusiastic. I really like that in a place.

  4. It is interesting that you mentioned the special drink. Today it was a drink with grenidine, orange juice, and ginger ale. I asked it it contained alcohol and was told no. Maybe she didn’t know. They wanted $2.50 for it.

  5. Thanks for the time and consideration that went into your informative writeup. You made some excellent observations.

  6. Excellent review and for me a warning.

    I can’t see and never have, going to a franchise restaurant where the food is formulaic and the menus encased in plastic. I didn’t like them there and I’m not about to go to one here.

    IMHO, the best restaurants have the menu on a chalk board, don’t own a freezer and everything is fresh.

    As for the prices: Como se dice GOUGE in Espanol?

  7. Hi Steve. Thanks for stopping in.

    Time will tell whether Friday’s can make it in David. In two months, after the newness has worn off, things should have settled down and it will better reflect the traffice that Friday’s should really expect. Right now many locals have never seen one and want to. Unfortunately when they get there they realize they can’t afford it.

  8. I received the following price comparison from Nevada

    Your ultimate margarita ($7.25) is $11.99 here.
    Your regular margarita ($4.50) is $6.99 here.
    Your loaded potato skins ($9.25) is $7.99 here.
    Your Jack Daniel’s Burger ($6.95) is $7.79 here.

    Joe
    Las Vegas, Nevada USA

  9. Well, we checked out the place 09Mar11 and can confirm the previous comments. The prices are US prices, the help is very friendly, the place is clean, the food is so-so (we had better elsewhere at a fraction of the cost), and the 2 of us where pretty much the only customers, no surprise there. Are we planning to go there again? Highly unlikely.

  10. Hi Werner. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. What amazes me is that most of the time the place is full and with Panamanians. I have cut my visits down to about twice a year and each time see and increase in prices. Still if you want US type food, it offers a choice.

  11. Went to TGIF restaurant once, with my wife, waited over 40 minutes
    for our hamburger and fries, and paid over 20dlrs with two small
    drinks, needless to say, will not be going there anytime soon .
    The service was average and nothing to brag about.

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