TGI Friday's was fined $500,000 for "scamming" customers into paying for top shelf liquor -- and then serving them the cheap stuff.
The violations took place at eight TGI Friday's in New Jersey, restaurants that were outed as part of a state raid dubbed "Operation Swill." Authorities said the Briad Group, a franchisee of the T.G.I. Friday's restaurants that were raided, has agreed to pay the fine and accept the allegations.
The scam was a surprisingly simple gambit to pad profits, according to state officials.
"Briad's restaurants were scamming customers by serving them a cheap substitute for what they ordered," acting New Jersey Atty. Gen. John Hoffman said in a statement. "Customers should get what they pay for every time without exception."
The investigation has been months in the making and triggered in part by complaints from customers who had an inkling that they weren't being served what they ordered.
Hundreds of bottles of vodka, gin, rum, scotch, whiskey and tequila were seized over the course of the probe and tested. More than two dozen restaurants were found to have filled premium brand bottles with non-premium brand liquor in a bid to dupe customers.
As the investigation honed in on violators, undercover agents from the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control visited suspected establishments and ordered up high-end drinks "neat" -- no ice or mixer -- so they could take an additional sample for testing.
The investigation remains ongoing, officials said.
For its part, the Briad Group released a statement saying it was pleased a settlement had been reached and stressed that it had cooperated fully during the investigation. The statement added that new training programs are in place that "will result in even higher customer satisfaction and a strengthened level of trust."
Makes you want to order a beer the next time you're at a bar, right? And watch them pop the top?