When her flight out of Nashville was delayed Wednesday, Kathy Kirby passed the usual airport restaurants and grabbed a seat at O'Charley's.
"I was tickled to death when I saw it," said Kirby, of Franklin, whose flight to Minnesota was about two hours late. Over a leisurely lunch of grilled chicken salad, she said, "It's nice to get a family restaurant instead of fast food."
O'Charley's on Friday opened a branch at Nashville International. By next summer, the casual restaurant chain will be joined by several other local favorites such as Whitt's Barbecue, Bongo Java and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.
The restaurants are part of a $44 million renovation project at the airport. The Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, which approved the project last summer, targeted local businesses for inclusion after a customer survey in 2003 found that people wanted brands they were familiar with at the airport, including local establishments. The restaurants will be phased in as construction progresses over the next two years.
"We are the front door step of Nashville and Middle Tennessee," said Rebecca Ramsey, the airport authority's manager of properties. "We want them to see and feel and hear and taste all the things they can expect when they get into the city."
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