Time was, the name "TGI Fridays" used to goddamn mean something. Kitsch-bedecked walls. Dim lighting. Aerosmith music. Reheated trashfood slathered in bourbon-flavored pancake syrup. The nagging sense that this interstate off-ramp gas-'n'-grub strip was the neon lure dangling before the yawning razor-toothed maw of some vast incomprehensible anglerfish—that, while you sat at the sad bar munching sad potato skins and drinking a sad Patrón Cosmo 'Rita Shaker, it slowly and imperceptibly positioned its jaws to snap shut and trap you in sad Springfield, forever.

Ah, but those were the good old days. When a man knew what his hellish mozzarella-stick-slinging generi-bar stood for. Those days, my friends: Those days are gone. First the corporate masters did away with the wall-mounted ephemera and license plates. How would the restaurants entrap the souls of the damned without these talismans? How would they concentrate and contain the psychic despair of suburban America? Does anyone care about the core TGI Fridays mission anymore?

Then they started pouring Jack Daniel's on "fresh," freshly-"cooked" food, instead of pouring it onto nuked Marie Callender frozen dinners. Who has time for this "actual cooking" nonsense? We have flights to catch, sad families to disappoint, prestige TV shows to doze off to in the nearest Motel 6! We need our booze-lubricated gastroenteritis now, dammit.

And now, my God, now they are cutting their restaurants loose altogether, setting them adrift to the whims of franchisees like so many Spicy Craft Beer-Cheese Burger-schlepping orphans. That's right: The chain is selling off most of its United States locations, as well as all of its United Kingdom locations, to God-knows-who. It's getting out of the running-restaurants game altogether! What will it do now?

"We had to decide: are we a franchiser or an operator of restaurants?" says TGI Fridays CEO Nick Shepherd. Ironic last name there, buddy. What kind of a god damn shepherd cuts his flock loose to a buncha randos? If you are shepherding only yourself, are you a shepherd at all? More like Nick Abandoner, amirite?

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And so, the centralization, the unified vision and purpose you so dearly treasured in the TGI Fridays experience falls by the wayside, shorn off by the expediences of corporate profit-making. Who even knows what the Oreo® Madness will be like next time you order one as an excuse to put off for another 15 minutes the horror of driving your rented Corolla back to your empty hotel room with a semi-obscured view of the on-ramp? Will the Oreo® Madness even be mad at all? In a world gone mad, will it just be an Oreo® Normal? Now, suddenly, how can you know?

How can you know anything in this godless world?

[Wall Street Journal]

Photo via Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock.com.