What is in this article?:
- Ruby Tuesday CEO plots new path for company
- Ramping up growth, marketing
The restaurant company recently announced that it would close all of its 13 Marlin & Ray’s restaurants.
James J. “JJ” Buettgen, chief executive of Ruby Tuesday Inc.
Ramping up growth, marketing
What makes Lime Fresh worth not only keeping in your portfolio, but also expanding?
I think there are a couple things that are different about Lime Fresh if you take a look at the brand holistically. As I look at it, Lime, to some degree, creates a niche between traditional fast-casual dining and casual dining. There’s a bit more of a casual element, where our employees bring food out to guests. There are different areas of the restaurant where you can be closer to the salsa bar or closer to lots of energy, or you can find somewhere quiet to sit.
It’s a great place to hang out. It’s a much less utilitarian experience than most fast-casual restaurants out there.
Throughout the 2000s, former CEO Sandy Beall tried to reposition Ruby Tuesday as a higher-end casual-dining destination. Do you plan to continue that trend?
We’re early on in our thoughts for strategic change, but there are a couple of things I can tell you that you’ll see from Ruby Tuesday going forward. Directionally, you’ll see the brand steer toward affordability and approachability. You may see a menu that’s got a wider range of price points and foods that are less center-of-the-plate, entrée-driven. You’ll see more sandwiches and salads fitting a broader range of occasions.
There have been a lot of changes made to the brand. We just haven’t told the story well enough yet. To many guests, the perception of Ruby Tuesday is still locked in a date that was prior to those changes. We want to find a way to tell the story and take advantage of the changes we’ve already made.
You mentioned in the earnings call that Ruby Tuesday would double down on its marketing efforts. Can you discuss any specific plans for social media, television or print?
I think it’s a little bit of all of the above. Up until about a year and half ago, [the focus] has been couponing and local advertising. This last year we’ve made an investment in national advertising and cable to show our advertising more consistently. You’ll see us use more advertising tactics throughout the year.
How will your experience as a CMO help inform your performance as a CEO?
I think my background will benefit me in that whether it was within restaurants, or the entertainment industry, or consumer packaged goods, I’ve spent most of my career trying to find out what’s important to consumers, really understanding what opportunities present themselves in different markets, and what customers want in different product categories. I’ve focused on how to position brands to take advantage of opportunities to enhance the business.
In this business, where the fit is really good is that there have been so many great changes made to the Ruby Tuesday brand over time. I think that skill set is a pretty good fit for the opportunity here at Ruby Tuesday.