Keeping It Local

Multi-concept restaurant company O’Charley’s Inc. is updating its namesake brand with a new prototype that reflects its distinctive personality and “favorite-local-place” theme. The theme ties into the larger-than-life personality of company founder Charlie Watkins.

“Out of all the equities they have, the tie to Charlie is really the strongest,” said Scott Jeffrey, chief creative officer, Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio. “We tried to bring this out by filtering everything through the favorite-local-place theme.”

The new prototype, in Mount Juliet., Tenn., is designed to enhance the guest experience and improve operational efficiencies while raising the company’s brand recognition. One of the first issues the designers addressed was how to make the facade better convey O’Charley’s niche.

“Between its name—O’Charley’s—and its brick and dark-green exterior, people unfamiliar with the concept thought it was an Irish pub,” Jeffrey explained.

The exterior was updated with monochromatic brick, white stucco and solid-green awnings. A street sign in front of the entry reinforces the favorite-local-place theme with catchy phrases such as “Everyday Reunions,” and “Spontaneous Celebration.” And the logo features the tagline, “Good Food. Good Times.”

“We wanted to signal on the outside that O’Charley’s is a fun place to be,” Jeffrey said.

Project Resources

Design: Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio.

Architect: Edwards + Hotchkiss Architects, Brentwood,Tenn.

General contractor: Ideal Co. Inc., Clayton, Ohio

Flooring: Shaw Contract, Dalton, Ga. (carpet); DalTile, Dallas; Shaw Commercial Hard Surfaces, Dalton, Ga.

Lighting: H&L, Caledonia, Mich.

Wallcoverings: Versa Wallcovering, Louisville, Ky.

Brick veneer: Robinson Brick Co., Denver

Furniture: Liberty Seating, Jasper, Ind.

Inside, the bar was moved to the back of the space to improve traffic flow and provide an energetic backdrop for the dining experience.

A large, hand-painted mural showcasing the local community is one of O’Charley’s signature decor elements. The mural, which is unique to each location, is located above the bar.

“There is a lot of equity in the mural,” Jeffrey said. “So we kept it as a focal point for the space.”

The mural isn’t O’Charley’s only signature element. The company has made a tradition of putting local historic photos on its walls. The pictures, however, weren’t always cheerful. Some depicted famous local disasters. Design Forum retained this component of the original decor, but established some editing guidelines.

“In keeping with the overall atmosphere, the photos have to show either good food or good times,” Jeffrey explained.

The new design moves away from the brick and forest green of the previous concept and focuses on familiar materials that reflect the favorite-local-place theme. Warm wood finishes, reds and golds elicit a feeling of comfort. The floor, ceramic wood plank, has a slightly weathered look.

“The materials we chose had to play dual roles in that they had to be low maintenance and have a worn quality to them,” Jeffrey said. “We wanted the space to feel familiar and comfortable.”

Booths and tables are separated by tall dividers with glass panels covered with soft-colored vinyl window films. Yellow pendant lamps add welcoming lighting and a decorative note in the dining area.

To set the right tone and tap into the brand’s legacy, personal messages from Charley (for example, “Everyone who walks through this door is a friend of mine”) are found throughout the space.

O’Charley’s is pleased with customer reaction to the new prototype. Design elements of the Mount Juliet location will be incorporated into existing O’Charley’s going forward. The company is pleased with the changes.

“Inside and out, the new prototype gives us an entirely new look and feel,” said Jeffrey D. Warne, concept president, O’Charley’s, Nashville, Tenn., which operates or franchises 363 restaurants under three banners. “It has tremendous curb appeal, and our guests are telling us they like it.”