Ruby Tuesday Inc.’s same-store sales were down 2.7 percent in the first quarter ended Aug. 30, the company reported Thursday.
The Maryville, Tenn.-based casual-dining company said that decline compared to a 0.6 percent increase in the same quarter last year as the company continued to wrestle with a challenging economy that led it to close 95 restaurants in August.
The casual-dining environment “remains highly competitive and challenging,” said Lane Cardwell, who was named Ruby Tuesday interim president and CEO in September with the resignation of James J. “JJ” Buettgen, in a statement.
Cardwell said challenges were “evidenced by our negative quarterly same-restaurant sales,” but he added: “Our trend improved sequentially during the first quarter as we made investments in highlighting value aimed at building guest counts.”
Cardwell said Ruby Tuesday generated positive traffic in August with value positioning, taking special note of the brand’s three-course meal offer for $12.99.
Factoring in the closures of restaurants in August, Ruby Tuesday said its first-quarter loss was $39.7 million, or 66 cents a share, compared to a loss of $4.2 million, or 7 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago. Closure and impairment expenses were $30.2 million in the quarter, the company said. Revenues in the quarter were down 8.2 percent, to $256.7 million, from the prior-year period.
Cardwell said Ruby Tuesday would continue initiatives aimed at driving traffic, such as a new menu, a refresh of the salad bars and service improvements.
“We believe these improvements will have a positive impact on our performance through increasing guest count and frequency,” Cardwell said. The company will be introducing a new menu in November and have a systemwide rollout of the Garden Bar in January.
Ruby Tuesday in late September signed a deal to sell some of its headquarters property in Maryville and laid off 19 support-center workers.
The company has 615 Ruby Tuesday restaurants in 42 states, 14 foreign countries, and Guam, with 547 of those company-owned and the remainder franchised.