The Untold Truth Of Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday, a restaurant chain known for its yummy salad bar and menu of chicken, pasta, seafood, and steak meals, dates back to 1972 in Knoxville, Tennessee. What started as just one restaurant near the University of Tennessee grew to hundreds of locations worldwide. In 1996, its popularity was widespread enough to make it a publicly-traded company, all stemming from a university student and a dream of entrepreneurship (via Ruby Tuesday).

Ruby Tuesday exists in almost every state and is somewhat of a household name across the United States. As with most well-known places, it's had its share of being in the spotlight for both good and bad headlines, including its support of children's literacy and a chapter 11 bankruptcy that made national news. 

If you've ever wondered what's gone on behind the scenes at one of your favorite restaurants, continue reading to learn more about the Ruby Tuesday namesake, employee pay scandals, and an ad that probably should have never left the marketing manager's desk.

The chain started with a university student's investment

In 1972, an ambitious University of Tennessee student named Sandy Beall opened the first Ruby Tuesday restaurant in Knoxville. Sandy used a $10,000 gift from his former mentor, a manager of several Pizza Hut restaurants, to fund the new venture, along with another $10,000 he and a few of his college peers raised (via Funding Universe). 

The first Ruby Tuesday was nothing like it is today with its sleek style and casual-dining atmosphere. Set within an old house, its rustic charm was still a hit, and Beall quickly found his restaurant appealing to customers in the area. Soon, Beall was able to leave his education behind in favor of his new and successful restaurant, according to Funding Universe.

Eventually, the restaurant grew into a 15-restaurant chain, allowing Beall to sell it to foodservice company Morrison's Cafeterias. Beall remained the CEO of Ruby Tuesday and its restaurant group of other chain restaurants, like Mozzarella's and Silver Spoon Café, for a few years after turning it into a public company in 1996 (via Restaurant Business).

Its name comes from a rock-and-roll hit

If you're a classic rock-and-roll fan, you might be wondering if Ruby Tuesday the restaurant got its name in some part from the popular Rolling Stones song by the same name. If so, your assumption could be correct, based on stories about the restaurant chain's beginnings.

In an interview with the New York Times, Beall says that one of his fraternity brothers suggested naming the restaurant after the song, and that it wasn't his idea because, "I wasn't that hip of a person." It would make sense that this was the case, since the hit was number one on the charts in 1967, making it still well-known to Beall's generation during the time that he opened the first Ruby Tuesday. The song, according to Keith Richards's autobiography, was inspired by his former girlfriend leaving him for another rock legend: Jimi Hendrix (per MPR News).

Despite seemingly snagging the name without permission from the Rolling Stones, the restaurant hasn't received any legal backlash.

Still, the restaurant sued a band over its name

It may not have gotten in legal hot water because of its name, but Ruby Tuesday did file a lawsuit regarding its use of the name. It might seem like a bold move, but that didn't stop the restaurant from suing an Australian band named Ruby Tuesdays for alleged trademark violation. The orice to pay? A whopping $2 million, according to Vice.

A statement from restaurant Ruby Tuesday's legal team (via Vice) stated, "While many artists pay tribute to other artists through imitation, when it comes to imitating famous trademarks, only Ruby Tuesday is entitled to the goodwill of its mark. In fact, the knowing adoption of a mark intending to play off a well-established mark is among the most egregious of trademark violations, warranting courts to apply the harshest of consequences."

Fortunately for the group, which reportedly didn't have much money to its name to pay such a hefty fine, the lawsuit was eventually dropped by the restaurant chain. Ruby Tuesday also agreed not to press the issue so long as the band did not sell or do anything else that would infringe upon the restaurant's rights to the name (per Musicfeeds).

Ruby Tuesday partnered up with Dolly

In 1995, singing sensation Dolly Parton launched a program that donates free books to children from birth to age five, known as Imagination Library. Since getting its start in the United States, the program has spread to countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia (per Imagination Library).

In November 2021, Ruby Tuesday began offering a Best Holiday Memories Album, a keepsake interactive book for kids, at participating restaurants for a $1 donation to Imagination Library. In a press release, Ruby Tuesday's CEO Shawn Lederman said, "We are thrilled to offer this powerful program that not only benefits the youth of our communities, but also encourages families and friends to come together this holiday season. Dolly Parton does a fantastic job building awareness for the value books bring to the lives of children, and we are delighted to support that mission." 

Donations would go solely to support the popular program, allowing it to continue giving books to all children who are signed up.

One of its ads brought the brand the wrong kind of attention

Most businesses want to grab attention through advertising. However, Ruby Tuesday got a little more than it bargained for in 2013 when the company decided to get cheeky with an advertising campaign.

The new campaign slogan was "Fun Between the Buns," and it didn't go over quite as well as the restaurant chain hoped. The campaign was designed to highlight the new pretzel buns for Ruby Tuesday's burgers and sandwiches while telling customers to have "fun between the buns." Of course, with any catchphrase sparks a hashtag, and Ruby Tuesday encouraged fans to share pictures of their new pretzel buns and burgers with others on social media (per Insider).

What followed was a lot of sarcasm and awkwardness, especially on Twitter, where people were quick to point out that the campaign was definitely not helping the company. One Twitter user wrote, "Ruby Tuesday should really consider renaming their website... Nobody goes to FunBetweenTheBuns.com looking for burgers." Another tweet quipped, "Ruby Tuesday, I don't think "fun between the buns" is a really good slogan to market your food."

Ruby Tuesday's side brands deliver extra yum

Not finding enough meals you'd love to try on the traditional Ruby Tuesday menu? Try one of its other side brands instead — at least, for a limited time. Libby's BBQ and Pasta Americana are child brands of the restaurant chain, but you can find them with the regular Ruby Tuesday menu for dine-in or takeout. And if you order food through DoorDash or another delivery service, you might see them pop up as separate restaurants without the Ruby Tuesday name attached.

According to a press release via Business Wire, Libby's BBQ was originally created as a delivery option for customers who wanted Ruby Tuesday at home. However, it's since been added to the menu for dine-in customers, too. The menu features smoked beef brisket sandwiches or entrees, pulled pork, smoked sausage, and yummy BBQ-friendly side dishes, like coleslaw and potato salad.

Pasta Americana is the brand's comfort food selection of four pasta dishes, including Blackened Shrimp and Sausage Pasta and Chicken Carbonara. Pasta Americana is also available for dine-in or Ruby TueGo customers (per Business Wire).

Ruby Tuesday celebrated its 50th anniversary with new menu items

It seems that the most popular restaurants probably stay that way because they're always offering something new to customers. Ruby Tuesday is no exception. The company regularly changes things up on its menu, shifting offerings and adding new items to keep customers interested in coming back.

But to prepare for its 50th anniversary in 2022, Ruby Tuesday announced a whopping serving of new menu items that promised to be "Big, Better, and Bolder" than anything else on the menu. It even launched another website to celebrate, encouraging fans to share their "Big Deal" on Twitter with the hashtag #NowThatsABigDeal.

The new menu items included two new burgers, one featuring shaved steak and melted cheese reminiscent of a Philly cheesesteak, and the other topped off with cheese, bacon, and crispy onions. Ruby Tuesday also added a loaded macaroni and cheese dish and two new flavors of irresistible boneless wings (via Business Wire).

Ruby Tuesday has sponsored motorsports

In 2010, Ruby Tuesday upped its marketing game by penetrating the motorsports industry as a sponsor. Penske Racing swooped up the restaurant chain for the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, making it the lead sponsor for six races. That meant that Ruby Tuesday got its logo plastered along the side and front of driver Brad Keselowski's #22 car and as a prime spot on his racing uniform. Penske Racing owner Roger Penske issued a statement on the Penske Racing website: "Our organization shares Ruby Tuesday's core values of quality, passion and pride and with Brad behind the wheel, we believe this will be a winning combination in 2010."

Ruby Tuesday must have made an impact as Keselowski's sponsor because it remained on his car for the following year's Nationwide Series season and picked up a sponsor spot for the NASCAR Cup series. The restaurant joined other big-name sponsors, like Coca-Cola and Best Buy (per Autoweek).

Ruby Tuesday was involved in a sex-discrimination lawsuit

According to a 2015 news release (via the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), Ruby Tuesday had to pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit. The alleged wrongdoing? Sex discrimination in 2013.

The news release states that Ruby Tuesday was charged with discriminating against two male employees who wanted to work as serving staff for its Park City, Utah location. At the time, Ruby Tuesday was looking for temporary summer help to fill in during the busy tourism season. However, the males said that Ruby Tuesday was only allowing females to become part of the team.

The restaurant's reason behind the supposed snub isn't quite as bad as it sounds. Ruby Tuesday was offering temporary housing for the summer staff, and allegedly did not think mixing males and females in its living quarters was a good idea. Still, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defended the rights of the employees against sex discrimination, resulting in the final ruling requiring Ruby Tuesday to pay them the cash and work on being less discriminatory in the future.

The restaurant chain bounced back from chapter 11 bankruptcy

The pandemic was bad news for the restaurant industry, with many dining spots closing their doors as a result of declining revenue and staffing shortages. Ruby Tuesday ended up caught in its crosshairs, too, eventually causing its parent company, RTI Holding Company, LLC, to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2020. The bankruptcy included a total of 50 RTI Holding Company, LLC affiliates, naming all variations of the Ruby Tuesday name (via Epiq).

According to Investopedia, this type of bankruptcy is also known as a reorganization bankruptcy. It allows companies to propose a plan to restructure their debts to enable them to stay open while still being held accountable for paying their debt.

Fortunately, only a few months later, in February 2021, Ruby Tuesday announced that it emerged from bankruptcy in a press release. According to CEO Shawn Lederman, "Ruby Tuesday is a healthier company now and is positioned to be more efficient, competitive, and stable for the future."

Some Ruby Tuesday restaurants are still closing

Despite rising from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Ruby Tuesday hasn't made it out completely unscathed. The company has still closed restaurants since the emergence from bankruptcy, including closing its last restaurant left in the state of Wisconsin in early 2022. The restaurant was located in Greendale. The village president, Jason Cyborowski, reported to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Ruby Tuesday's departure from the town was very sudden and that it will be missed. "It was a good restaurant," said Cyborowski. "So hopefully whatever else comes in there does the same or better."

The closure followed several others in 2020 leading up to the bankruptcy and several more in 2021 after emerging from bankruptcy. According to Eat This, Not That!, Ruby Tuesday quietly closed about 150 restaurants before announcing its bankruptcy and about 240 locations throughout the pandemic. Some locations even closed without giving much or any notice to their employees (via Insider).

Its popular salad bar got a major makeover

Ruby Tuesday's salad bar has long been a hit for the restaurant, letting diners enjoy fresh salads customized to their liking. Dine-in customers could add the salad bar to their meal for a nominal fee or opt to have an endless salad bar selection for their entire meal. According to Clark Howard, about half of Ruby Tuesday's guests choose the salad bar as an entrée or add-on.

In 2017, the salad bar got a fresh new makeover and a new name: the Garden Bar. The Garden Bar made its way into all of the restaurant chain's locations across the United States, offering customers more than 55 fresh ingredients, new fruit options, and made-in-house salad dressings (via Clark Howard).

The Florida Times-Union reports that director F. Lane Cardwell Jr. calls the Garden Bar the "biggest change we've made to our brand in the last decade," while executives gushed that guests seemed happy with the change.

Workers have claimed that Ruby Tuesday cheated them out of pay

In early 2016, a Ruby Tuesday server named Charlene Craig suid her employer for allegedly encouraging its staff to complete "side work" off the clock or while earning a minimum server wage of as little as $2.13 per hour. Craig reported that, while doing these side jobs, servers like her were unable to earn tips like they would doing their usual serving job. Craig hoped that, because there were likely other Ruby Tuesday servers doing the same, the suit would become a federal class-action lawsuit (via Knox News).

And it did. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the class action suit covered any Ruby Tuesday bartenders and servers who worked for the chain within the three years prior to the suit. Ruby Tuesday responded to the suit, stating, "We are committed to our Ruby Tuesday team members, and we will be providing a vigorous defense of the company on this matter in the appropriate forum." According to Bloomberg Law, the suit reached a proposed settlement of $485,000 paid to 215 employees.

Ruby Tuesday hopped on the "skinny" cocktail bandwagon

Back in 2009, "The Real Housewives of New York" star Bethenny Frankel hit it big with her Skinnygirl product line of low-calorie alcoholic drinks. The brand blew up, expanding its offerings with everything from sweeteners to apparel. Although Frankel sold the brand for an estimated $100 million in 2011 (per People), it's likely that Skinnygirl left its mark on a seemingly new industry of healthier choices.

Ruby Tuesday soon bought into the trend, making over its beverage menu to speak to diners who wanted better options. According to Bar and Restaurant, the new "Fit & Trim 'Skinny'" cocktail menu features drinks with 150 calories or less and fresh, real ingredients. New options included the Skinny Lavender Lemon Drop and the Açaí Mojito. Five of the new drinks spotlighted VeeV Açaí Spirit, an up-and-coming favorite at Hollywood bars, creating an even trendier drink menu for Ruby Tuesday guests (via Business Wire).

You can get some toilet paper and groceries with your online order

If you ever wanted to score some toilet paper rolls with your to-go dinner, you're in luck. Ruby Tuesday serves up pantry staples, including American cheese, frozen turkey burgers, and, yes, some toilet paper. It's known as Ruby's Pantry, a delivery service that began early on in the pandemic to help people avoid having to go to the grocery store when they only needed a few things to restock their shelves.

According to the SunSentinel, Ruby Tuesday heavily promoted its to-go items for pick-up and delivery during the pandemic, including its new Ruby's Pantry service, hoping that it could be a viable way for its restaurants to continue serving customers when they couldn't dine in. While it didn't pan out for some locations that eventually faced complete shutdowns, it worked in other areas. To this day, customers can visit Ruby Tuesday's website to order from Ruby's Pantry at select restaurants.