Ruby Tuesday Inc. and NRD Capital, an Atlanta-based private equity firm that specializes in franchised and multi-unit business investments, announced that Ray Blanchette, a seasoned restaurant executive and turnaround expert with over 25 years of industry experience, has been named as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. Blanchette is the permanent successor to the company’s former CEO and president, Jim Hyatt, and succeeds NRD’s founder and managing partner Aziz Hashim, who had served in the role of interim CEO since the Firm acquired Ruby Tuesday in a go-private transaction on December 21, 2017.

Blanchette joins Ruby Tuesday from Au Bon Pain, where he served as the company’s President and CEO since June 2016, including through the acquisition of the company by Panera Bread in December 2017. Prior to ABP, from 2007-2015, he served as President, CEO and a member of the Board of Directors of Ignite Restaurant Group Inc., the parent company of the Joe’s Crab Shack and Brick House Tap & Tavern brands. Blanchette is credited with the historic turnaround of the Joe’s Crab Shack brand, the successful launch of the Brick House Tap & Tavern concept and bundling the brands into IRG, which he eventually took public through a successful initial public offering on NASDAQ in 2012.

“Ruby Tuesday is an iconic American brand with dedicated employees who deserve the best possible leadership,” said Hashim. “As the NRD team conducted its search for a permanent CEO, we sought out an executive with a proven track record of successful restaurant management, combined with innovative thinking, extraordinary team-building skills and a shared philosophy on the importance of strong unit level performance. Ray Blanchette checks all those boxes, and on behalf of everyone at NRD, I want to be the first to welcome Ray to the Ruby Tuesday team. We look forward to a bright future working together.”

“I believe in the Ruby Tuesday brand and its potential for a turnaround story,” said Blanchette. “Having spent my career in the casual dining segment, I understand how difficult it’s become for brands to differentiate themselves amongst the competition. Like NRD, I don’t believe that is the case with Ruby Tuesday, and with the right product offerings, messaging and execution, the company can once again be top-of-mind with global diners. I want to thank Aziz and the team at NRD for this fantastic opportunity, and look forward to getting people excited about Ruby Tuesday.”

In addition to his tenure at IRG, Blanchette served in numerous senior leadership roles at Carlson Restaurants, the former parent of TGI Friday's and Pick Up Stix. Blanchette’s business achievements have received many accolades, including twice being nominated for the prestigious Carlson Fellows Award, as well as Division of the Year, for his work at T.G.I. Friday's, and in 2013, Nation’s Restaurant News awarded him with their prestigious Golden Chain Award for his work at IRG, where he was also named Operator of the Year. He holds a Master's degree in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University.

Source: NRD Capital