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Top 100: Karen Forrester, TGI Fridays

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Karen Forrester, TGI Fridays

Overall ranking: 41 (new entry)

Restaurateur ranking: 12 (new entry)


What we think

Looking at the scope and reputation of TGI Fridays today, it's hard to believe the business was struggling when Forrester joined. But such is the life, enthusiasm and profitability she has injected into the business, it is no surprise that the casual-dining operation has stood firm despite intense competition and challenging trading conditions.

Forrester is recognised as one of the most team-focused leaders in the sector. She understood that bringing in the right people, training them and developing their knowledge was the key to the brand's success. To that end she has spread employee enthusiasm through the Fridays Academy, where new recruits are trained and existing team members retrained.

Forrester did away with the tired image of the restaurants, which she described as "childish and clown-like". Out went the cheesy jollity of employees carrying party balloons (costing £100,000 a year in helium) and in came classy leather seating, open kitchens and oak floors. Forrester gave staff the skills and confidence to serve customers with a knowledgeable smile.

She has been lauded for turning the business around by nurturing the talent within it. When asked in an interview in 2015 how many children she had, she replied 4,612 - the number of TGI Fridays employees at the time. In the same year TGI Fridays was named the top big company in The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For.

Despite its strong history as an employer, TGI Fridays has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons twice this year. In March it was named within a government report for failing to ensure all staff received the National Minimum Wage, something the company put down to the reimbursement of a shoe allowance. The following month staff were balloted over strike action after the company introduced a new policy that saw 40% of tips made via card payments given to kitchen staff.

However, Forrester has delivered some impressive financial results. TGI Fridays' recent growth may have dipped slightly as a result of new entrants in the market and challenging trading, but 2016 still saw sales rise 7.7% year-on-year to £221m, although profits were squeezed by the interest payable on a number of loans.

Currently 82-strong, the group is looking to add more sites as it continues to build on the successful foundations laid by Forrester, who remains as committed as ever to her TGI Fridays' 'family'.

Further information

TGI Fridays and All Bar One to open in Southampton's WestQuay >>

TGI Fridays to create 700 jobs >>

TGI Fridays' Karen Forrester named 'most people-focused CEO' >>

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