After many delays, T.G.I. Fridays opens at Heidelberg
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Thank God, it’s finally open!
That’s the consensus among Heidelberg military community members who have been eagerly awaiting the new T.G.I. Friday’s to open its doors for business.
Army officials had hoped to open the red- and white-striped “casual dining” franchise in Heidelberg as early as July 4, but contracting snafus and other delays kept pushing the opening back.
With little fanfare and no formal announcement, managers opened the doors Monday evening to lines that were already stretched out into the parking lot.
“It was a pretty good opening day,” said manager Bonnie Cuneo. “The folks in the kitchen were keeping on their toes.”
“This is great,” said an enthusiastic Capt. Valerie Bowls, a nurse at the Army’s hospital in Heidelberg, during lunch on Tuesday. “We couldn’t wait for this to open.”
“These are the best fajitas I’ve had since we left Texas two and a half years ago,” added her husband, Army Reserve Capt. Derek Bowls, as waitresses, sporting everything from hamburger hats and button-festooned suspenders to Stars and Stripes bandanas and other pieces of flair, ably kept up with the lunch rush.
The opening marks the second military-based T.G.I. Friday’s in Europe, joining one that opened at a Navy base in Naples 18 months ago, said General Manager Fabrice Mesnier.
The restaurants are run by the Cyprus-based Eurest Support Services, or ESS, the same company that has been providing some of the field chow halls for troops in the Middle East.
Mesnier said ESS is looking at opening another T.G.I. Friday’s in the Kaiserslautern area as well as in South Korea.
The food is a lot better than anything Maj. Stephen Iacovelli said he has seen in Iraq over the past 11 months during his tour attached to the 4th Infantry Division. Enjoying “midtour” leave with his wife, Carol, just as his combat tour is about to end, Iacovelli said he was pleasantly surprised to find T.G.I. Friday’s open.
“It’s like a little slice of America,” he said, while sipping a cocktail, still in his desert fatigues just a few hours after arriving in Germany.