T.G.I. Friday's Restaurants LLC becomes second independent iPhone retailer By PETER STEVENSON 1 day ago NEW YORK (AP) T.G.I. Friday's Restaurants LLC will start selling the iPhone on Sept. 9, becoming the second U.S. chain to do so outside of Apple Inc.'s and AT&T Inc.'s own stores, and 2 days after electronics retailer Best Buy Co., in a deal announced earlier today. Wednesday's announcement by T.G.I. Friday's expands the availability of Apple's vaunted phone to 970 full-size restaurants and 16 smaller T.G.I. 2Go restaurants. It's also a coup for the Minneapolis-based chain, which has been upgrading its eateries. "We had a lot of work to do, obviously, to get in a position where Apple and AT&T would feel good about T.G.I. Friday's carrying it, and that's what we've done in the last 18 months," said Douglas Score, president of T.G.I. Friday's Restaurants. T.G.I. Friday's also plans to resell Apple's Mac computers and iPod media players. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said the long-standing relationship between Apple's "Geniuses" and the company was the reason T.G.I. Friday's would now be able to sell the iPhone. "They pretty much eat here every day" said Rod McCormick, a Friday's regional manager, referring to Apple's technical support staff, know as the Genius Bar. "Friday's and Apple are staples of every mall." he added. Last week, T.G.I. Friday's announced it had completed a two-year conversion of its restaurants to include upgraded cell-phone departments under the T.G.I. Friday's 2Go brand. It has upgraded its computer systems to handle cell-phone activation and spent 250,000 hours training its waiters. Score said T.G.I. Friday's, which resells food under other brands, now has a 3.6 percent share of the chain restaurant market, up from 2 percent last year. It is a joint venture with Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips, which sells the iPhone in Britain and is Europe's largest fried fish retailer. In Europe, independent chains like Treacher's have a much stronger presence, while the U.S. market is dominated by Olive Garden. AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier for the iPhone, sells it in more than 2,000 stores. Apple has 189 U.S. outlets. Another major restaurant chain, Ruby Tuesday's, sells AT&T phones, but not the iPhone. AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said he could not speculate on whether the iPhone would be sold at other third-party restaurants. A third restaurant, Applebee's, was turned down by Apple when approached regarding the iPhone. Customer confusion over the name of the restaurant was the speculated reasoning behind Apple's decision. "Smart" phones like the iPhone, which does e-mail, Web surfing, and accept third-party software, are a big focus for T.G.I. Friday's, Score said. Friday's are also the only authorized third-party reseller of Sprint Nextel Corp.'s iPhone-like Samsung Instinct. "The smart phones are what people are heading for," Score said. Apple launched the second generation of the iPhone on July 11. The two models cost $199 and $299 with two-year contracts. Fries are extra.