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Local restaurants part of nationwide renovation trend
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A desktop “floor plan” lets O’Charley’s Restaurant hostesses see where the available tables are and seat guests accordingly. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Whether dining out or simply rolling around the drive-thru, restaurant patrons may be noticing changes at some of their favorite restaurants.

“Consumers expectations are growing and changing constantly, wanting a more sophisticated dining experience,” said Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association. “Generally, restaurants need to remodel their establishments every seven years. Nicer-looking stores obviously attract more customers.”

The restaurant industry is a big business everywhere, Georgia included. Information from the National Restaurant Association shows the industry makes up 10 percent of employment in the state and is expected to add more than 58,000 jobs between now and 2024.

With growth comes increased competition, and restaurants are deploying more strategies to keep up. The Gainesville O’Charley’s located at 1711 Browns Bridge Road reopened to the public May 16 after some minor renovations, including a more open floor plan and a new logo.

“It’s part of a larger revitalization campaign that was rolled out ... in 2012,” company spokesman Jason Weidman said, adding the Gainesville restaurant is one of around 40 to be renovated this year.

The chain, owned by Fidelity National Financial, had not updated its logo in 40 years. The changes also include an updated menu.

O’Charley’s isn’t the only restaurant chain to freshen up its look. In February, the Darden Restaurants-owned Olive Garden chain announced a complete evolution of its menu. According to a news release, the changes are “designed to appeal to evolving palettes and preferences of casual dining guests, while providing guests with more options to customize their meal experience.”

Many of the Italian restaurant’s physical locations have also been undergoing changes as well, including a logo redesign and new waiter uniforms.

Olive Garden’s parent chain, Darden, has been struggling. It recently sold another of its chains, Red Lobster, as sales at the seafood restaurant declined.

The restaurant Renaissance isn’t limited to casual dining establishments; fast food icons are making attempts to change their image.

For example, Burger King has announced it is changing their slogan from “Have it your way” to “Be your way.” Burger King also has plans to renovate many of its physical locations across the world, moving toward more of an upscale feel.

The location on Pearl Nix Parkway, now closed, is in the process of being rebuilt.

Most recently, McDonald’s has introduced a new mascot named “Happy” to promote Happy Meals to kids.

“Quick-service restaurants are also experiencing more competition,” Bremer said, pointing out competition comes from atypical locations such as convenience and grocery stores.

“In order to stay competitive, they need to keep up with the trends.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report