Fresh Ruby Tuesday CEO Searching for Brand's ‘New Voice’

Now that the deal is done, it’s time to start rebuilding at Ruby Tuesday. The brand has named Ray Blanchette CEO. He has a big task ahead of him as he looks to put the brand on a new course toward growth.

"This is a brand that has had declining guest counts for a decade, that's the number one priority in the business," Blanchette said during the 2018 ICR Conference.

Blanchette joins Ruby Tuesday from Au Bon Pain, where he served as the company’s president and CEO since June 2016, including through the acquisition of the company by Panera Bread in December 2017. Prior to Au Bon Pain, from 2007-2015, he served as president, CEO and a member of the Board of Directors of Ignite Restaurant Group, Inc., the parent company of the Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tap & Tavern brands, according to a press release.

Aziz Hashim, founder and managing partner of NRD Capital and the new owner of the brand after finalizing the purchase on December 21, said while there were a lot of people who were confused by the purchase, his investors (LPs) were all in when they saw the price of $2.40 per share or $335 million.

"I think that’s the benefit of LPs that are owners," said Hashim. "Every single one of them gave a thumbs up when they saw that price."

He said that there is certainly a lot of work to do, but the brand still has "good bones."

"For the most part, when you talk about Ruby Tuesday, you don’t get a frown," said Hashim. "It’s just that we stopped going because things changed."

Expect big changes under Blanchette, starting in the kitchen.

"A lot of food innovation, and at the end of the day, you have to sell an experience that you can get off the couch for," said Blanchette. "I think we have to find a new voice for the brand, we have to make a different noise."

But don’t expect the brand to get overly aggressive on value despite competition on price from other casual dining as well as QSR.

"When you look at causal dining, you have winners and losers out there. The folks racing to the bottom have proven time and time again that it’s not a winning formula," said Blanchette.

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