The new head of Friendly's is a MA native who took over after two decades with Panera. He was on Boston Public Radio yesterday, discussing the changes Friendly's has made as it comes out of bankruptcy. He said they had identified the major issues behind the downhill slide that culminated in widespread closings in the last year or two: food quality, store cleanliness, personnel training/motivation.
They had expanded their menu too far, into foods they weren't good at making, like stir-fries. So they have cut back their menu to focus on the burgers, supermelts, ice cream, and other things they did well. They are in the process of refurbishing their stores and doing better, more vigilant, training and and continuing education for employees. It sounds like it may be worth trying Friendly's again, if you can find one that's still open.
Bit of trivia: the two brothers who founded the chain are still alive, in their upper 90's, and still in regular contact with the new management.