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T.G.I. Friday's Joins Bargain Dining $5-Meal Club

From USA Today's Bruce Horovitz: The recession that brought back $2 gasoline is about to bring back to casual dining another retro price point: $5 meals.

Today, T.G.I. Friday's — which, like most casual-dining chains, has taken a hit during the recession — will unveil plans to sell all salads and sandwiches for $5 all day in May. The move follows a recent rollout by Chili's of 10 entrees for less than $7.

A $5 price tag at sit-down restaurants hasn't been seen in quite awhile. "It's a magic number," says Malcolm Knapp, a researcher who tracks the $75 billion casual-dining industry, which saw same-store sales drop 4.9% in March. The $5 meal, he says, "is affordable to everyone."

The question: Can Friday's afford it? A steak sandwich that usually fetches $11.75 will go for $5, as will a pecan-crusted chicken salad, normally $9.69. All are full-size portions. The chain hasn't had such low prices on its menu since it opened in 1965.

Friday's executives insist that beyond being a recession response, the $5 menu is a way to drum up interest in nine new salads and sandwiches. "The consumer needs something that gives them permission to experiment — and this is it," says Andrew Jordan, marketing chief at Friday's USA. Go to Full Story

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