Brand Spanking and Ruby Tuesday



An article appeared in the New York Times this past weekend on Ruby Tuesday and the efforts of CEO Sandy Beall to remake the chain into a more upmarket restaurant enterprise in the midst of a recession. He appears to be doing all the right things: focusing on ingredients, menu, servers and the restaurant interiors. One statistic that stood out for me was the high rate of employee turnover.  The current rate, way down from 135%, is 100% — meaning, statistically, all Ruby Tuesday employees are replaced within one year. This crazy level of churn is being dealt with through training and other loyalty programs presumably, but it is a common phenomenon of the casual dining category.

Interestingly, it presents a brand planning opportunity.

The opportunity is to research people who have worked at a number of competing restaurant chains.  Were I doing the planning work, I’d conduct focus groups on like-titled employees with experience working at a minimum of 3 stores: Applebee’s, Friday’s, Chili’s and/or a regional player. Focus groups offer a degree of panelist pile-on that can only happen in a small group dynamic and would quickly help to identify the underbelly of operational strengths and weaknesses. Employees love to kvetch and when they start spanking brands around (a practice I call brand spanking) good insights happen. Peace!.