(WBIR - Maryville) The restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday, founded and headquartered in East Tennessee, revealed major financial struggles in its second quarter financial report.
The company recorded a net loss of $34.4 million in the second quarter and now plans to close 30 of its 779 locations.
The economic downturn in recent years has taken a huge toll on many casual dining restaurant chains such as Red Lobster and Ruby Tuesday. The losses recorded by Ruby Tuesday continue to exceed what were already pessimistic financial forecasts by Wall Street.
Ruby Tuesday's large concrete headquarters in Maryville are about 15 miles and four decades away from the restaurant's origins as a beer and burger restaurant on the Cumberland Strip beside the University of Tennessee. The restaurant was founded in 1972 by UT alumnus Sandy Beall and four of his fraternity brothers. Beall retired as CEO in 2012 after 40 years of overseeing enormous expansions and operations.
"People have an emotional attachment to Ruby Tuesday. It has been a real icon here," said public relations expert Mike Cohen. "You know, it was UT students that started it on Cumberland and grew it into hundreds and hundreds of restaurants. There are many people around here who had their first job and learned the restaurant trade by working at Ruby Tuesday."
The decades of success by Ruby Tuesday brought more than sentimental value and hometown pride for people in East Tennessee. The company invested heavily in local communities.
"You've got the RT Lodge on the Maryville College campus. They spent a lot of money and invested in Downtown Maryville with some wonderful facilities," said Cohen.
Despite attempts to reinvent itself, change the menu, and roll out big marketing campaigns in recent years, the chain currently finds itself in a financial tailspin as its national popularity continues to decline.
"It's a big deal for Knoxville because they started here. It's an even bigger deal for Maryville because they employ a lot of people there. It's a big economic impact," said Cohen.
Ruby Tuesday has not said if any of the 30 locations it plans to close in the next few months are located in Tennessee. Cohen believes the company will make it through the current financial challenges, although he wonders in what form.
"When you own more than 700 good locations around the country, odds are even if you have to go through some tough times you can probably survive." Cohen added, "I think one of the questions you have to ask is if an investment group buys it, does it stay here or do they move it and manage it out of wherever they are? It's too bad you have to see a homegrown company struggling, and I think people hate that about this as much as anything else."