Ruby Tuesday Abandons Some Side Projects


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JJ Buettgen isn’t wasting time. The CEO of Maryville, Tennessee-based Ruby Tuesday—who is seven weeks into the job—is already making some big changes. This afternoon, he announced that the company plans to immediately exit some of the chain’s side businesses, notably its seafood concept Marlin & Ray’s.

Buettgen, in the midst of the company’s quarterly financial report, said that it plans to close its 13 Marlin & Ray’s locations “immediately.” The company is also exiting its one Asian concept, Wok Hay, and is seeking a buyer for its two licensed Truffles Grill restaurants. The company is keeping its Lime Fresh fast-casual concept, but is closing two of those locations, too.

The reason is fairly simple: the company should focus on Ruby Tuesday. “Based on a significant amount of discussion and analysis, and a clear understanding that driving profitable same-restaurant sales at Ruby Tuesday is our first and most critical priority, we have decided to close our 13 Marlin & Ray’s restaurants immediately,” he said in a statement. He said that the concept “is not an optimal conversion vehicle for us going forward.” The decisions will cost the company $16.9 million.

Buettgen’s decision is a big break from the company’s previous CEO, and founder, Sandy Beall, who spearheaded the creation and licensing of other brands as conversion vehicles for closed Ruby Tuesday locations. Marlin & Ray’s was the favored concept. Buettgen was named Beall’s replacement in November.

Ruby Tuesday just reported flat same-store sales, up 0.3 percent in its second quarter, which ended December 4. But the company is reporting flat sales this year. Buettgen cited the “volatile consumer spending environment as well as the level of competitive intensity we have seen in the restaurant sector over the last several months.”

 

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