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O'Charley's Is Closing More Than a Third Of Its Restaurants—Here's Why

The chain shuttered 18 restaurants this past weekend alone.

If you find yourself craving a hot meal from O'Charley's Restaurant + Bar in the near future, you may have a harder time finding one of its locations.

The casual dining chain just abruptly closed 18 struggling locations this past Sunday, Restaurant Business Magazine reported. With these closures, O'Charley's has now shuttered 51 restaurants in 2023, or more than a third of its total unit count.

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For the uninitiated, O'Charley's is a casual dining chain with a wide-ranging menu somewhat similar to what you might find at Applebee's or TGI Fridays. It serves shareable appetizers, burgers, ribs, steaks, salads, and southern-inspired dishes, as well as beer and cocktails.

The chain's decision to shutter so many restaurants was due to struggling sales and changing areas around its eateries. Malls and other retailers previously located near struggling O'Charley's restaurants had closed or moved over the past few decades, taking away much of the potential foot traffic. A larger shift to online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic worsened that trend, while increases in rent and commodity costs piled on even more financial pressures.

Meanwhile, O'Charley's systemwide sales plummeted 34% from 2017 to 2022, Restaurant Business Magazine reported. Sales were promising in January 2023, but they slowed throughout February, March, and April.

This spurred O'Charley's to shutter the 18 locations in an effort to reverse its fortunes. Local news outlets have been documenting all of the sudden closures, which have reportedly impacted O'Charley's restaurants in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, among others. The chain now operates 91 restaurants total throughout the Midwest and South.

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O'Charley's is hopeful that the closures will make the whole system healthier in the long run. In a recent interview with Restaurant Business Magazine, O'Charley's CEO Craig Barber said that shuttering the restaurants was like "pruning the vines at a winery."

"They do that every year. You get a better higher quality grape, you get more growth, and you have to do it for the health of the vineyard overall."

Barber said that sales are already improving thanks to value promotions aimed at enticing price-conscious customers. For example, O'Charley's brought back its popular Free Pie Wednesday promotion in May that offers dine-in customers a free slice with the purchase of any adult entrée. The chain also just announced a new "Shrimp Lovers Weekend" promotion this week that offers dine-in deals on several shrimp meals and allows guests to add buttermilk fried shrimp to any entrée for $3.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe