Orlando's Santiago Emeric Wins Title of T.G.I. Friday's(R) Southeast Division Bartender Champion

Proceeds to Make-A-Wish Foundation® Of America

ORLANDO, Fla. // PRNewswire // -- Santiago Emeric of the Sea World/Orlando T.G.I. Friday's restaurant defeated other top Larger than Life mixologists from the Southeast last week to advance to the finals of T.G.I. Friday's® World Bartender Championship. Emeric will be making his first trip to the finals where he will face nine other finalists from around the globe for the title of "Greatest T.G.I. Friday's Bartender in the World." All funds raised from the annual event benefited the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions.

"Ever since I went to my first flair bartender competition as a spectator three years ago, I knew I wanted to be on that stage," said Southeast Division champion Emeric. "It takes a lot of dedication and time to know all the drinks and flair tricks. I can't wait to get on the biggest stage of all - the T.G.I. Friday's World Bartender Championship."

The divisional competition consisted of three segments - compulsory, speed round and freestyle - as well as a comprehensive skill test. The freestyle segment gave the competitors the ultimate stage to show off their flair techniques of tossing, balancing, mixing cocktails and flipping bottles in the air to choreographed music. The mixologists who competed in the Southeast Division competition were finalists from local and regional competitions held earlier this fall.

Overall, more than 8,000 Friday's® bartenders from 60 countries are testing their knowledge and skills in their quest to reach the finals of the World Bartender Championship which will be held in early 2010.

The competition, which represents Friday's heritage, knowledge, expertise and innovation in the beverage industry, began back in the late 80s as a challenge between bartenders and has grown into a full representation of the Friday's brand, one of the most recognized brands in the world. Originators of the now-famous, trend-setting, bottle tossing "flair" style of bartending, T.G.I. Friday's bartenders are world renowned for their accuracy and precision, their larger than life personalities and their award-winning ability to entertain guests around the world.

With more than 900 restaurants in 60 countries, including approximately 600 restaurants in the U.S., T.G.I. Friday's offers great food, innovative drinks and a unique experience filled with flair and a Thank God It's Friday's™ attitude. Friday's authentic, engaging atmosphere makes it the perfect place to escape, socialize and connect with people while getting a rejuvenating second wind. Members of Give Me More Stripes®, Friday's guest recognition program, receive free stuff and special perks year-round. As the original casual dining restaurant, T.G.I. Friday's has a rich heritage which includes being credited with popularizing Happy Hour, Long Island Iced Tea and Loaded Potato Skins. T.G.I. Friday's is also famous for its flair bartenders, approximately 8000 of whom compete annually for the title of the "World's Greatest T.G.I. Friday's Bartender."

Carlson Restaurants Worldwide Inc., the parent company of TGI Friday's Inc., is a privately held company owned by Minneapolis-based Carlson, a world leader in the hospitality and travel industries. As of December 2009, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide owns, operates, franchises or licenses more than 1,000 restaurants in 60 countries.

SOURCE: T.G.I. Friday's Restaurants

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