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Quick makeover gives restaurant new look, flow
O’Charley’s service manager Brandon Boling, left, and general manager Michael Clark present an O’Charley’s “Hometown Hero” recognition to Joe LaBranche, center, for his military and community service. As part of the restaurant chain’s companywide renovation program, about 40 “Hometown Heroes” are being honored. - photo by For the FCN

CUMMING — A popular restaurant chain is returning to its Southern roots with a renovation program.

Michael Clark, general manager of O’Charley’s on Market Place Boulevard in Cumming, said the local franchise got its new look last week as part of a program in which all 207 locations will be revamped by the end of 2017.

“This is part of a series of renovations to all the restaurants in the brand,” Clark said. “[Work crews] come in for four days and when they leave, we have a completely made-over restaurant.”

The Cumming store is one of about 40 of the chain’s locations to receive a makeover in 2014.

Clark said the restaurant was closed from Aug. 4 to 7 as crews made over the site with O’Charley’s new Southern style.

He said the redesign of the restaurant, which held a grand reopening celebration on Monday in which it honored Joe LaBranche as a “Hometown Hero” for his military and community service, focuses on creating the feel of an historic Southern home.

“We’ve given each seating area a unique name that reflects its atmosphere,” he said. “There’s the Dixie Room, the Green Room, the Porch and the Piedmont.

“We want it to have that charming feel of an old, large Southern home.”

To enhance that feel, the restaurant has a more open floor plan, which allows servers to move through the restaurant more easily.

“We took out a few partial walls that divided up the restaurant a lot,” Clark said. “We tried to eliminate areas that have felt cut off from the main serving areas before. Now no one feels like they’re stuck in a corner where they’re not going to get as much attention from our servers.”

The makeover also included the addition of new chairs, tables and booths throughout the eatery, as well as brighter colors and wall decorations.

Some of the restaurant’s old tables were removed to make way for more booths, which Clark said most customers prefer and which also free up more room for servers to better do their jobs.

The restaurant has added a signature O-shaped booth near the entrance, as well as more large tables and booths to better accommodate larger parties.

“The O-booth, as we call it, has been a big hit,” Clark said. “A lot of people want to sit there when they come in. Some people have even asked if they can reserve it or wait longer to be able to sit in it.”

The revamp also included a makeover of the restaurant’s bar area, which Clark said feels more open and part of the overall restaurant rather than being cut off.

Many of the decorations in the renovated space harken back to the 1940s and ‘50s, enhancing the atmosphere of historic charm. A counter has been added to the main dining which will display O’Charley’s fresh-baked pies.

“It’s just like something you would see at your grandma’s house,” Clark said. “And that’s the homey feel that we’re going for.”

The restaurant’s 63 staff members all seem to be enjoying the new look. Clark said the better flow allows them to work more easily, and “it’s nice to work in a completely refreshed atmosphere.”

“I think the staff and all our customers are excited to see it,” he said.

The four-day renovation is the first major facelift for the restaurant, which opened about 13 years ago in Cumming.

“We had a minor ‘refreshing’ of the place in 2009,” Clark said. “But it was nothing like this.”

This time around, the company spent about $250,000 at the site. So far, those numbers seem to be paying off.

“Just this past weekend after they finished the work and we reopened, we were about 20 percent busier than that same weekend last year,” Clark said.

“It’s fresh, it’s new, it’s warm and inviting … and that gives you one more reason to come out to eat.”