13 TGI Fridays Restaurants Among Those Busted In NJ For Selling Cheap Booze As Premium Pours

You might not be surprised to find that a sketchy dive bar is refilling its empty bottles of liquor with cheaper booze, but many consumers probably don’t expect a chain restaurant to get involved in such underhanded hanky-panky. And yet, 15 of the 29 places caught in yesterday’s sting by New Jersey liquor regulators are outlets of national chain eateries — and almost all of those were TGI Fridays.

Dubbed “Operation Swill,” investigators in New Jersey raided establishments alleged to be deceiving consumers by putting less-expensive alcohol in bottles for top-shelf brands.

“The customer paid for the premium brand but was instead, unbeknownst to the customer, poured the non-premium brand,” said authorities in a statement.

Among the places caught in the sting were one Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant and one Applebee’s — and a whopping 13 TGI Fridays, accounting for nearly half of the raided establishments. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, all of the Fridays caught up in the raid are owned by the same New Jersey franchisee group.

The corporate office for the Texas-based chain is, of course, taking this matter very seriously.

“TGI Fridays was just made aware of this issue and is working closely with the franchisee and owner of the cited locations to review and investigate these serious allegations,” reads a statement from TGIF HQ. “We have one of the most extensive bar and beverage programs in the industry, which sets a very high standard in the quality and service of our beverages.”

A rep for Ruby Tuesday’s tells the Star-Ledger that the company is “still in the process of collecting more details, but we are cooperating fully.”

UPDATE: The president of the franchise group that owns the raided TGI Fridays sent the following statement to Consumerist –

As operators of 16 T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants in New Jersey, The Briad Restaurant Group takes great pride in the quality of food and drink we provide our guests. That is why the allegations from the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control are especially troubling and surprising to us.

We can assure our loyal and valuable guests that it is our corporate policy to treat all of our patrons honestly and fairly. We have already begun our own investigation to learn if any of these allegations are true. If they are, we will take immediate steps to correct any issues that may have led to less than a 100% quality experience for our guests. Regardless of the outcome, we will be deploying additional measures, supervision and quality checks into our process. We want every assurance possible that our guests can continue to feel confident in the great food and drink they order at our T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants.

You can see the whole list of accused establishments — some of whom deny the charges — at NJ.com.