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!.