O'Charley's owners tout big early returns on remodel

J. Alexander's, Stoney River now grouped in separate entity

The new owners of the O'Charley's restaurant chain say their overhaul of one of a Franklin restaurant has produced a 20 percent jump in traffic since November.

Fidelity National Financial executives also said they have separated the operations of upscale dining concepts J. Alexander's and Stoney River Legendary Steaks into a separate unit that has annual revenues of about $200 million. The move, said CEO George Scanlon, will enable the group to better serve its higher-end clients and let the American Blue Ribbon Holdings parent company handle the casual- and family-dining companies under Fidelity National's umbrella.

On a conference call with analysts and investors Wednesday, officials with Fidelity National said the O'Charley's remodel — the first of more than 200 planned through 2015 — and the introduction of a range of $9.99 dinner specials has helped goose business at the restaurant on Highway 96. The 20 percent jump was bigger than expected, Scanlon said.

More broadly, Fidelity National executives said the O'Charley's business — which is now part of a multi-brand restaurant group with annual sales of more than $1.4 billion — also is being helped by the introduction of pies from its Legendary Baking sister company. Same-store sales for the quarter, he added, were positive for the first time since 2006. On top of that, cost savings from the purchase of O'Charley's are on track to reach $20 million this year.

"We're pacing according to schedule and we're encouraged by everything we've seen so far," Scanlon said.

Fidelity National last year bought O'Charley's — along with the Ninety Nine and Stoney River concepts — for more than $120 million and J. Alexander's for almost $80 million.