Ruby Tuesday CEO resigns as struggles continue

Ruby Tuesday (RT) is on the hunt for a new president and chief executive officer.

The restaurant chain announced late Tuesday that current CEO James “JJ” Buettgen had resigned. Buettgen had led the Maryville, Tenn.- based chain since December 2012.

No reason was given by the company for the departure, though Ruby Tuesday has faced troubling declines for its restaurants. Last month the chain announced it would be closing 95 locations around the country by the end of September. As of August 30, the company had 615 Ruby Tuesday restaurants in 42 states, 14 foreign countries, and Guam. Of those restaurants, 547 were owned and operated by the company.

F. Lane Cardwell, Jr., a director on the company's board and former president of P.F. Chang's, was announced as the company's interim president and CEO while it looks for a successor.

Buettgen's resignation comes amid a rough run recently for Ruby Tuesday, which has seen its stock fall close to 45% in 2016 and over 60% since Buttegen took over on December 1, 2012.

In addition to announcing Buttegen's departure the chain also announced preliminary results for its first quarter of fiscal 2017 with same store sales falling about 2.7% in the three-month period ending August 30, 2016, on revenue of $256.7 million.

Wall Street was expecting $263 million according to estimates from S&P Global Capital Intelligence.

"We think it's a good move," says Peter Trombetta, an analyst at Moody's. "What they’re doing right now isn’t working. So any changes they can make are at least giving them the potential to make improvements."

Similar to other casual restaurants Ruby Tuesday has faced increased competition from so-called "fast casual" restaurants such as Chipotle and Panera. "Consumers view those chains as either healthier options or maybe a better value," notes Trombetta. "So that's been taking a toll on casual restaurants in general."

The chain is attempting to reposition the company with a new "Fresh Start" initiative that will feature a "Fresh New Menu, Fresh New Garden Bar, and Fresh Experience" in the hopes of reinvigorating the brand.

"They need to improve their operations," says Trombetta. "Whether that comes from better menu offerings, improving their lunch offerings or just the overall ambiance of the restaurant. Whatever it is we're looking for overall improvement in operations."

Shares of Ruby Tuesday were  down more than 4% in late morning trading Wednesday to $2.92.

USA TODAY


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