Bar chain TGI Fridays might need to consider a rebrand. Nine-to-five workers in Melbourne are embracing Thursdays as the new full-stop of their working week, as they spend Fridays at home under new flexible working arrangements.
Thursday night drinks have become the new office ritual, according to many bars in Melbourne’s CBD, while the long lunch has also had a shake-up.
“Thursday lunches are a thing,” says Nathan Matthew, group general manager of venues including Hazel, below the T&G Building on Flinders Lane.
“On a Friday, you’d normally expect to see people not worrying about going back to the office. That’s transferred a lot to Thursday now.”
It’s not just corporate diners hosting clients. He’s also noticed team catch-ups and people with suitcases who have travelled interstate for meetings.
Foot traffic at exits of two of the city’s busiest train stations, Southern Cross and Flinders Street, shows that the past four Thursdays have consistently been busier than Fridays. Pedestrian numbers at Southern Cross are on average 5 per cent higher on Thursdays, while the Princes Bridge exit of Flinders Street is 10 per cent higher.
We’re almost getting two Fridays, which we’ve never had before.
Mike Patrick, Fancy Hank’s
“I think it’s only going to get busier,” says Matthew. “Even in the last couple of weeks it’s started to pick up. Offices losing masks has really made a difference.”
Mike Patrick, who owns barbecue restaurant Fancy Hank’s and adjoining rooftop bar, Good Heavens, says they are seeing a big spike in after-work drinks.
“It would be 5.15pm on the dot on a Friday when we’d get that big influx. That’s starting to happen on Thursdays now.”
He says the atmosphere after work on Thursdays has a “Friday night feel to it”, with groups of people ordering lots of cocktails, drinking for a couple of hours and then wishing each other a good weekend as they leave.
Not that the city is deserted on Fridays, according to Patrick. Family and friends, people going to the theatre, live music fans and, now, footy diehards are keeping his venues busy. Pedestrian data reflects this too, with big spikes on Princes Bridge at 7pm and 10pm last Friday.
“We’re almost getting two Fridays, which we’ve never had before,” says Patrick.
Lunches on Thursdays are also getting longer, bigger and sometimes tipsier at Fancy Hank’s. Quick stops for a brisket sandwich used to be the Thursday norm. Now Patrick notices groups ordering platters of barbecue, bottles of wine and even post-lunch whiskeys.
“There’s been a lot of doom and gloom about the city being in dire straits, and it’s not,” he says.
On Friday afternoon, people looking for a quick knock-off beer or spritz might be more likely to stay near home. At Ascot Food & Wine, owner Shaun Hampson will often come back to the restaurant after picking his kids up from school and find people lingering over glasses of fizz.
“They’re going out for those Friday drinks locally,” he says. “Early on [in the pandemic], they couldn’t really go into the city. But now it’s so convenient to stay local. We’re seeing a lot of the same faces over and over again.”
Meanwhile, Sundays have taken off at The Alps, Toorak Cellars and Milton Wine Shop, all in Melbourne’s south-east, where glasses of wine and snacks are also part of the bottle shop offer.
“People have got a lot of catching up to do, so they’re piling it into that other day of the weekend,” says Lyndon Kubis, who owns all three venues.
He says, pre-COVID, his staff saw a fairly linear increase in trade from Monday to Saturday, with a dramatic drop on Sundays. Now, that line jumps around.
“Everything bottle-necked and now there’s just this release,” says Hazel’s Nathan Matthew.
Six CBD steals and happy hours
Champagne at Nick & Nora’s
This Art Deco-inspired bar’s champagne tower ritual is even more thrilling on Wednesdays at 6pm, when you can score a glass of Muum for $5.
80 Collins Street
Friday happy hour at Pope Joan
Join the faithful between 3-6pm on Friday for $10 glasses of wine and prosecco, $10 G&Ts, $8 Peronis and $100 bottles of Perrier Jouet grand brut.
45 Collins Street
Katsu sandos at Supernormal
Pork katsu sandwiches ($24) are back, Monday to Thursday, noon to 3pm.
180 Flinders Lane
Thali deals at Gaylord
Since you were gone, Gaylord has left Chinatown and re-emerged in the city’s west end with a $20 thali lunch, Wednesday to Friday.
Grand Hotel, 33 Spencer Street
Pasta at La Madonna
A bowl of pasta and wine (or snack) for $40, Monday to Saturday.
103 Little Collins Street
Happy hour at Fancy Hank’s and Good Heavens
Knock-off work with $8 beer or wine on Thursdays; order a pint and they’ll make it a boilermaker for free.
1/79 Bourke Street