Friday, June 13, 2014

What Happened to Ruby Tuesday?



"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday, who could hang a name on you?"

Maryville, Tennessee-based Ruby Tuesday has had its fair share of struggles but can the once popular chain turn it around?

Ruby Tuesday opened its first restaurant near the University of Tennessee in 1972.  


In its heyday, Ruby Tuesday had dozens of locations throughout metro Atlanta (and around the southeast), but over the past few years the casual restaurant chain has closed most of them.  Once a landmark in most metro malls, the chain has been relegated to mostly stand-alone restaurants in the suburbs of Atlanta.  

I recall Ruby Tuesday having locations in Town Center Mall, Gwinnett Place Mall, Northlake Mall, Mall of Georgia and on Lenox Road near Lenox Square.  Ruby Tuesday also had locations on West Ponce de Leon Avenue in Decatur, Acworth, Snellville, Cartersville and Griffin, among others.

Today the Ruby Tuesday website reflects the chain operates only 13 restaurants in Georgia.


Ruby Tuesday's original logo

Ruby Tuesday replaced their original logo in 2006 with a new, more updated logo.  This change coincided with updates to the Ruby Tuesday menu, renovations of existing restaurants and the addition of free guest Wi-Fi networks. One of Ruby Tuesday's many goals in this transformation was to leave their  "bar & grill" branding behind, instead going with "Simple Fresh American Dining."   

In 2008, Ruby Tuesday marketed a campaign to show how radical their recent changes were. A video posted online by Ruby Tuesday seemed to show a demolition crew imploding the final "old Ruby Tuesday" in front of a small crowd in Mount Holly, Ohio to cap off the brand's commitment to change. "Mistakenly," however, the "restaurant" next door (Cheeky's Bar and Grill, which looked like a typical casual dining restaurant) was demolished instead.  The video succeeded in drawing attention to the chain, but that was about it, as the chain seems to remain stuck in another era.  

A comparison of the rebranding efforts of two formerly popular casual chains 

In 2012, Ruby Tuesday purchased Lime Fresh Mexican Grill in hopes of using the fast casual chain as a growth vehicle.  The plan was half-baked from the start, and less than a year into their Atlanta entry, all three Atlanta area locations had closed.  The Miami-based burrito eatery priced themselves out of the market with prices higher than Atlanta's popular Willy's Mexicana Grill, not to mention Chipotle Mexican Grill.  


In 2010, Ruby Tuesday converted its Buckhead restaurant, reportedly one its more successful in Atlanta, into Truffles Grill.  After a name change to Truffles Cafe failed to ignite interest in the concept, the restaurant closed last year.  

Ruby Tuesday brought in new leadership in 2012 to try and get the restaurant chain back on track.  

James "J.J." Buettgen resigned from his position as senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Darden Restaurants to become president and CEO of Ruby Tuesday in December 2012.  Buettgen took over for Ruby Tuesday founder Sandy Beall, who stepped down after 40 years.

Last summer, Todd Burrowes was also hired away from Darden where he was executive vice president of operations for LongHorn Steakhouse.  Burrowes was then named President and C. O. O. of Ruby Tuesday, Inc.

In early 2013, Ruby Tuesday announced it would close its Marlin & Ray's seafood chain, of which there were thirteen overall units, three in Georgia.  Marlin & Ray's locations in Acworth, Lithonia & Augusta all closed and interestingly enough, were all former Ruby Tuesday restaurants.  

Darden has had its fair share of struggles itself, highlighted by the recent sale of its Red Lobster brand.  Can two Darden alums save Ruby Tuesday?  

What are your thoughts?  
What do you think can / should be done to make Ruby Tuesday relevant again? 
What's your fondest memory of Ruby Tuesday?  

25 comments:

Mike Kaz said...

They seem to do well in North Carolina. heck, theres still one in Lenior, NC. Very basic menu which doesnt seem to have a ton of variety but it still has the best salad bar around. Ill go in there when I was a simple meal and have a coupon.

Carl Black said...

Technically, the Northlake Ruby Tuesday relocated to Decatur (so said the signs at the mall). It was particularly interesting that their new next-door-neighbor (Crescent Moon) opened its second location in the vacated mall space.

My only semi-recent experiences with the concept were both at Decatur. Despite living directly across the street, I only went there twice, both with a coupon. The once-mighty salad bar (that originally made RT a destination for many) was pathetic. I ended up ordering off the menu instead (and getting it to go, since the atmosphere...wasn't). The second time, I called in an order from the menu on the company website. They didn't understand what item I was ordering and reported they'd never had anything like that. They tried to duplicate what it was when I read them the description, and I discovered at pickup that it was about twice the listed price. I complained to corporate and never got a response. At the same time, I had only myself to blame; there was a reason no locals ever ate there.

The former Cumberland location is now a DSW, but you can see the remnants of its predecessor. They filled in the windows that once overlooked their corner of the mall, but the outlines are still there.

In my hometown (Jackson, MS), both of the former locations (in what were the two major malls) remain vacant after many years. Signage is long gone but they still have that signature 80s look. I remember how exciting it seemed when they first opened. It was a fairly innovative concept in some of the otherwise underserved markets (like MS). RT was a place we actually enjoyed going in high school...a place on which both kids and parents could agree.

Atlantan99 said...

@Carl,

Good memory on Cumberland, I totally forgot that the current DSW was a Ruby Tuesday! I have been to to the DSW and it's not your normal setup, perhaps because of it being a former restaurant and in the mall. I do remember when the current Jason's Deli (at Cumberland( was a Lettuce Souprise You ;)

Thanks for your thoughts on Ruby Tuesday. Based on your experiences at their defunct Decatur location, I guess it should not come as any surprise that they closed.

It is funny how both Wendy's and Ruby Tuesday were known for salad bars.

Thanks as always for your comments and readership!

Anonymous said...

I think that the real interesting part of the story (that is missinng) is that the Beall's also own and run Blackberry Farm in Maryville, TN- Sometimes cited as the finest hotel experience in the US with phenomenal food and service. Its a very well executed concept and well run. There is a big disconnect- seems the attention is on the hotel and restaurant, not RT.

Anonymous said...

I cannot get over that the location on Peachtree Industrial in Duluth is still open. I bet I have passed it thousands of time without even thinking about going there. I seem to recall the chain touted a healthier menu for a while, and nothing sounded very tasty.

Glen said...

I grew up in Savannah and we ate at Ruby Tuesday's (in the Mall of course)several times. I remember that they had the greatest breadsticks served with some kind of sweet butter. After I moved up here, I would eat at Ruby's every now and then, but not with any regularity. Actually, I do remember going to the one at Perimeter Mall on Christmas eve a couple of years in a row. A bunch of us would meet there for dinner before heading intown for an annual party. However it has been a long time since I have set foot in one of their locations. I do have a coupon for a free Hamburger(emailed birthday club) so I will probably go this week. The email list or social media is the new wave of attracting new customers to come into the stores. The promise of free food for signing up is a good idea that everyone, even Waffle House) has been embracing lately. the only problem is getting people to actually sign up. I hope that Ruby Tuesday's will end up succeeding in the long run. I would hate to see them disappear.

Disneypal said...

I always liked Ruby Tuesday's - hated when the one at Northlake Mall closed many years ago. They had a great salad bar.

I've noticed the seem to be progressing towards more rural types (I've noticed this in FL and VA) - smaller towns that don't have a big chain sit down restaurant - maybe they will have success with this.

Erik from the Burbs said...

Ruby Tuesday was in Galleria not Cumberland Mall

Atlantan99 said...

@Carl,

I believe Erik to be correct in his assertion that Ruby Tuesday was in the Galleria, not Cumberland Mall. The Galleria space later became Chow Baby (now renamed Big Chow Grill). I do think you are right that the DSW was a restaurant though, perhaps a Black Eyed Pea?

http://www.tonetoatl.com/2010/07/real-chow-baby-all-grown-up-now-big.html

Thanks for your comments!

Atlantan99 said...

@Carl,

I believe Erik to be correct in his assertion that Ruby Tuesday was in the Galleria, not Cumberland Mall. The Galleria space later became Chow Baby (now renamed Big Chow Grill). I do think you are right that the DSW was a restaurant though, perhaps a Black Eyed Pea?

http://www.tonetoatl.com/2010/07/real-chow-baby-all-grown-up-now-big.html

Thanks for your comments!

Atlantan99 said...

@Erik,

I stand corrected! You are so right with Ruby Tuesday having been located on Galleria, not Cumberland. I still think the current DSW was some kind of restaurant (perhaps a Footaction in between?) Do you recall what it might have been?

Thanks as always for your comments and readership!

http://www.tonetoatl.com/2010/07/real-chow-baby-all-grown-up-now-big.html

Anonymous said...

DSW was a Morrison's Cafeteria

Anonymous said...

Lenox Square also had a Ruby Tuesday. It was where Urban Outfitters is now. It was Tom Tom after that.

Matt said...

This is just an aside but I believe the Truffles conversion in Buckhead happened in late 2010.

One of my former managers was working there in 2011.

Atlantan99 said...

@Matt,

You are right! My apologies for the inaccurate report. I have made the appropriate change.

Thanks again for the catch and for your continued readership.

Anonymous said...

I was seriously scratching my head when someone stated there was a RT at Cumberland! It was at Galleria. Cumberland did have a Mick's in the 90's that is now restrooms off of the food court area. I think RT should return to their roots - i.e. salad bar and a welcoming atmosphere. Lose the modern cold feel. I

The Anti-Gnostic said...

I'm old enough to remember "Steak and Ale." They had the cheesiest, pseudo-Chaucerian ad jingle you can imagine. Ah, the 1970's!

At the intersection of Peachtree Road and N Druid Hills, there used to be a tiny little breakfast place called "Steak and Egg." My parents never took us there though. IHOP was in its heyday back then.

On Peachtree Industrial Blvd, there was a chain restaurant called "Coco's" where we ate religiously. That's where I acquired my lifelong taste for patty melts.

Anonymous said...

Ive been to the one in Duluth twice in the last year and a half both times with a coupon. The salad bar is pathetic now and both times the place was completely dead ..maybe 4 tables on a Friday evening!!! I have no idea how it remains open, the landlord has to be giving concessions.

Anonymous said...

The Ruby Tuesday's in Smyrna used to be the great hangout for local singles and was always packed. I wonder if restaurant smoking being restricted has hurt their bar business and appeal to that customer base. Same with Appleby's. Lately we have been going to RT about once weekly due to coupon discounts. We've been surprised at how many people are there for lunch. More than ever expected. It's the salad bar that still attracts those looking for a healthy meal in a sit down place.

Darin said...

Ruby Tuesday's, back in the days of the excellent salad bar -- it was the only chain bar-and-grill restaurant that I liked. I went to the one at Town Center many times growing up and the Galleria location as well.

I miss it. And I can back up Carl on the Decatur one, it was a very strange atmosphere and nothing at all like the ones I remember at other locations. The Buckhead location was good but I guess it couldn't compete with the other restaurants around.

If one (or a similar concept) re-opens intown Atlanta with the grand salad bar intact, I'll be there.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

OMG - I found the old Steak and Ale ad.

mindspringyahoo said...

Tonetoatl should establish its headquarters at a particularly classic piece of local architecture before it meets the wrecking ball: the Northlake Steak and Ale.

It's only 600K for around 9K square feet, which is quite reasonable.

Or maybe after the IPO it'll be more feasible.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure ruby's is all about lunch. The ones here on the south side are packed from 11 to 2. Dinner is fairly quiet. The salad bar is alive and well at the RTs in morrow and McDonough , which aren't even listed on the Atlanta location guide ( either is the one over in lovejoy) so there may be a few more than 13 in ATL....

Anonymous said...

Why even bother with this ridiculous eulogy for a middling suburban chain that never offered anything but processed, pre-prepared food. American palates have matured, hopefully. Good riddance!

vespajet said...

There used to be one at Southlake Mall as well and may have been one of their early Atlanta locations, as I remember it from going to that mall back in the 1980s.