Breaking the Chain – O’Charley’s becoming Twister Rooster

A couple of weeks ago it was announced that four Michigan area O’Charley’s Restaurants (one in Holland, one in Grand Rapids, two on east side of the state) owned by Meritage Hospitality Group (MHG) were going to be dropping the O’Charley’s franchise and the restaurants will be re-launched as the Twisted Rooster within two years.  The Grand RapidsTwister Rooster will be launched on July 21st.  Alright well what is the Twisted Rooster, sounds like another chain.  Well it is kind of, it is a local chain that was developed by locally owned MHG.  According to The Grand Rapids Press article the Twisted Rooster will feature a “concept to adapt to consumer preferences that favor unique, local eateries using local ingredients.”   Apparently MHG was “underwhelmed by the performance of O’Charley’s” and decided to make a change.

This of course sounds great and I will be interested to check out the new restaurant and see just how “twisted” the menu is.  But even more fascinating to me is the transformation of a national franchise chain into a local area restaurant.  Oddly enough the Grand Rapids area has experienced one of these transformations in the past.  Anyone remember the various Pizzeria Unos that dotted Grand Rapids, well they were all transformed into a restaurant called Malarky’s in 2008.  As far as I can glean it was the same reasons why O’Charley’s will be flipped into Twisted Rooster, restaurants were under performing, franchise fees were expensive, and the owners thought they could do better by themselves.

So what do you think is this going to be a continuing trend, the “unchaining” of restaurants?  Can we expect more restaurants to go this route?  What are your thoughts and is this a good thing or bad thing?

Oh yeah for all you social media nuts out there here is Twisted Roosters stuff – Twitter (interesting how they are engaging the consumers asking for opinions and ideas.  Very cool how they interacted with GRSocialDiary regarding vegan dining options). Facebook page.

See what West Michigan’s restaurant reviewer had to say about Malarky’s.

Update: See my updated thoughts about Twisted Rooster in my new post.
Update #2: Per Twisted Rooster, there are no longer plans to reopen in Holland, there is now a for sale sign at the old O’Charley’s building


13 responses to “Breaking the Chain – O’Charley’s becoming Twister Rooster

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  3. I can`t wait to come visit the GR location next week !!! I was told i am going to love it !
    any coupons available?

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  5. Breaking the chain? Are you saying that Twister Rooster isn’t going to be operated by GR based Meritage Hospitality Group who operates 69 Wendy’s restaurants (and a multitude of other ventures) and isn’t simply cashing in on the “Local First” movement by converting all four Michigan O’Charley’s to (ahem . . . ) ‘independent concepts?’ BTW: I’m all for more jobs, the success of this locally headquartered company and buying from local resources but “breaking the chain” or the term “unchaining” seems deceptive to me.

    • Hi Victoria,

      Thanks for the comment. Well there are always multiple ways at looking at something, and this definitely is one of them. Here was my take: local company MHG paid franchising fees to O’Charley’s (a national chain of restaurants in my opinion). MHG then went against general convention when their O”Charley’s restaurants were not performing as expected and instead of bringing in a different franchise, they came up with their own independent concept. In my analysis I did separate MHG’s Wendy’s side of the business and focused only on the O’Charley’s/Twisted Rooster segment. So that is why the unchaining and breaking the chain concepts work for me. I can’t fault MHG for trying something new (for them) and going into the “local first” concepts. If your research and customer opinion tell you that people want a local first type establishment, why wouldn’t you? In the end, I would much prefer having an independent concept of Twisted Roosters in Michigan, which would be owned and operated by a West Michigan company (and which would not send out franchise fees out of state), than having four more Applebee’s or IHOP’s.

      Just to better understand where you are coming, from would you consider Russ’ Restaurants or New Beginnings as chains? Is it deceptive to you because they operate the Wendy’s restaurants?

  6. Ah – Now I see where you’re coming from with the O’Charley’s/Twisted Rooster “unchaining.”

    My definition was more simple (i.e. www. “Meritage Hospitality Group Inc is a public company categorized under Fast-Food Restaurant, Chain and located in Grand Rapids, MI.”

    So yeah, I was left rather unmoved with , ‘locally owned fast-food restaurant chain sues to get out of national franchise agreement to develop independent concept.’ blah.

    Admittedly, I’m beyond being annoyed with all the tweets and posts about this new venture considering there’s plenty of long-standing locally owned, independent restaurants who provide an independent concept and buy as much as possible from local vendors.

    Yes, I agree and wish them the best. These folks are restaurant franchise gurus and I’m thrilled they are headquartered in Grand Rapids. I’m interested in finding out more about there use of local resources.

    Thank you for helping me understand the “unchaining.”

    Now if you could fill me in on one more thing. What the heck is a twisted rooster?

    Much appreciated. 🙂

    • Victoria, Thanks again for your comments, you definitely presented an angle I hadn’t really thought of. Yeah Social Media can be a bit too much at times, but luckily you can quickly “unlike”, “block” or “unfollow” and the noise just disappears.

      Twisted Rooster question I will ask when I stop over there.

  7. With respect, I hope this venture turns out better than Malarky’s. I was very underwhelmed by the changes to their menu (in particular, the pizza is not as good as Uno’s was), and service was average at best –we have long since been frequenting other establishments.
    At the time, it seemed very much to us that Malarky’s was trying to save on franchise fees, not so much that “they felt they could do better”. I liked the GR O’Charley’s (the Holland one had poor service), so I hope they perform as well under their new operation as they did their old one.

  8. Well, we stopped by the Twisted Rooster last night.

    The wait staff is clearly all new employees. While service was adequate, the previous O’Charley’s staff had some polish, probably through experience, and we missed those faces and hope they are doing well in other positions.

    As for the food –I wish I could say I was impressed, but I’m not. While my wife’s Roo Burger was good, my Red-Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich wasn’t hot –or very honey-like, nor was it all that flavorful.

    We went on to dessert, which was presented beautifully. Unfortunately, my wife’s Banana Bread Pudding and my Red Velvet Cake had the same problem –they didn’t taste like anything. I’ve never had a dessert that looked so good, and tasted like forkfulls of nothing. My wife noted that the bananas in hers seemed dehydrated, as if they (or the dessert) were trucked in, rather than the all-fresh local ingredients the staff claimed. Our waitress was apologetic and very polite, but did not get a manager involved, nor change our bill, something a more experienced person might have looked in to.

    I miss the Prime Rib Pasta, Jambalaya, and Three-Cheese Trio Chicken Sandwich of O’Charley’s, all of which had real flavor. While the Twisted Rooster has time to improve, they have a long way to go to reach the quality of O’Charley’s, which is ironic considering that the management felt they could pay less, but do better at the same time. I’m sure they’re paying less –but at the moment, they aren’t doing better.

    • Hi Doug, thanks for your recent comments.

      Actually last week I ate lunch at Twisted Rooster and met with MHG Marketing/PR contact and we had a good conversation about the restaurant.

      She mentioned that almost almost all the staff from the GR O’Charley’s transitioned into the new Twisted Rooster, so there should have been a lot of familiar faces along with some new ones but with anything new I am sure there is a learning curve.

      I also ordered the Red Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich which I enjoyed, and although I would not say it was spicy or hot in flavor I could still taste the Red Hot sauce flavoiring and a hint of honey when eating. I agree that it was not heavy on the sauce but I am alright with that. Food is quite subjective, and I am sure it could be difficult to find a good balance.

      Just as an FYI if you feel strongly about your experience perhaps reach out to the restaurant, they seem pretty receptive to comments. Good Luck.

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