Why The Original Ruth's Chris Location Had An All-Female Wait Staff

Ruth's Chris Steak House is a world-famous fine dining franchise that offers a diverse fare. Its menu includes hearty steaks, juicy chops, succulent seafood, savory soups, flavorful salads, and all the wine one could consume. More importantly, this chic, family-friendly, date-worthy, Big Easy-based establishment has a rich history worth celebrating.

Originally known as Chris Steak House, the restaurant was founded by Chris Matulich in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1927. The first location was on 1100 North Broad Street, on the corner of Broad and Ursulines Avenue. Matulich managed the joint for 35 years, during which he sold the business six times. Each time, the new owner poorly managed the restaurant, and Matulich was able to buy it back for a lower price than what he sold it (via Reference for Business).

Finally, in 1965, a divorced single mother came along. She needed money to send her two sons off to college and spotted a classified ad for an unnamed restaurant. So, she mortgaged her home and bought the restaurant — a big risk she knew was absolutely worth a shot, even though she had never worked in a restaurant. This woman's name was Ruth Fertel (via Business Insider).

According to the official restaurant website, in 1976, a decade into Ruth's ownership, a kitchen fire destroyed Chris Steak House, after which Ruth was forced to relocate a few blocks away to 711 North Broad Street. By simply adding her own name to the brand, she became the founder of Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Who were the servers at Ruth's Chris Steak House?

At the start of her ownership, Ruth solely hired single moms to wait tables. She strongly believed that these women were hard-working, trustworthy, and willing to succeed and make a good living. For many years, Ruth's Chris Steak House was the only New Orleans restaurant with an all-female wait staff. In fact, Fertel and her team of boss ladies were lovingly nicknamed "The Broads on Broad Street."

"Our founder, Ruth Fertel, was a single mother and famously employed an all-female wait staff of single mothers at our first location in New Orleans. We are proud to raise a glass to her and all mothers, past and present, on this special occasion and provide a small token of our appreciation for their hard work and devotion," said the company's current CEO Michael O'Donnell as he was quoted in a 2017 press release about a Mother's Day special offered by the chain (via PR Newswire).

Fertel sadly passed away in 2002 at the age of 75 (per The New York Times). She left behind a foodservice empire that's still well and thriving to this day. And that's how Ruth Fertel — fittingly nicknamed the First Lady of Steak — became a glass ceiling-shattering hospitality legend.