The basic blueprint for Fridays’ expansion has got to change, chief executive Robert Cook told listeners to MCA’s The Conversation this week.

He said that while the business was a good position going forwards, there were elements of its expansion strategy that would need to be altered if the business was to capitalise on the opportunities in the property market.

Cook said the business was geographically well-spread with stores as far north as Aberdeen and as far south as Bournemouth. “In terms of our high-footfall locations we are 35% retail park, 32% shopping centre and 17% city centre – we need to continue on the city centre focus for our new brand, because that’s how it’s been designed and what it’s for.

Fridays will open its first 63rd+1st location – a new smaller-format bar-based brand which harks back to its cocktail bar heritage – in Cobham, with further openings in the pipeline for 2021.

“Fridays has on average 6,500 sq ft but we will probably go down a bit from that in order to acquire some of the distressed assets due to the dislocation in the marketplace where you are picking up opportunities at nil rent or smaller rent than the previous tenant was paying,” explained Cook.

“I think the economics are going to drive the market a bit differently than what we have been used to, but we like our geographic spread and our split of locations between retail, shopping and city centre,” he added.

In terms of the digital side of the business, Cook said the brand only had “a light touch” on Deliveroo going into the pandemic, but it was now fully in with two of the largest delivery operators, and offers its own click and collect service as well as its Fridays at home offering, including cocktail packs and DIY meal kits, and is seeing “some pretty good looking numbers”.

He said the combination of all these aspects has seen the brand become a lot more diverse, and “we have tested how Fridays works outside the four-walls of the store and it seems to have worked very well – but the big question is what happens when we get back to full story opening?”.

“It will be interesting to see what happens to our delivery and digital proposition, but we are developing our digital offer with more cocktails, our own label beer, prosecco and wines going out now and it’s been popular and again a stimulus for the team to get excited about something while we’ve been in a store closure situation,” explained Cook.

Commenting on reopening this week that Fridays had “got off to a great start” when trading reopened at 30 of its sites in England on Monday (12 April).

He said that takings would be a contribution to fixed costs rather than “knocking the doors of profitability open” and viewed the reopening this week as a dress rehearsal for when dine-in reopens next month. “The important thing is to bring spirit back into the brand,” he said.