"High end" and "chain restaurant" are not mutually exclusive terms for this company. Ruth's Hospitality Group is one of the largest upscale dining operators in the country with more than 150 locations anchored by the Ruth's Chris Steak House chain. Boasting about 130 restaurants in 30 states and some international markets, Ruth's Chris is the largest high-end steak house chain in terms of number of locations. Its menu features a variety of steak cuts, along with lamb, veal, and fresh seafood. About half the restaurants are company-owned while the rest are franchised. In addition, Ruth's Hospitality operates about 20 seafood restaurants under the Mitchell's Fish Market and Cameron's Steakhouse banners.
Despite the fact that the menu feature premium-grade beef and the prices are higher, the Ruth's Chris chain is quite a bit similar to such casual dining chains as Chili's (owned by Brinker International) and Outback Steakhouse (OSI Restaurant Partners). It has created a recognizable brand by focusing on a core dining concept and it strives to create a consistent dining experience from one location to the next. Through franchising, the company has been able to expand the steakhouse chain into new areas across the country as well as into international markets. Local franchisees, such as Desert Island Restaurants, pay the company royalties and fees in order to use the Ruth's Chris name and other intellectual property.
Ruth's Hospitality competes most directly with well-known chains such as Morton's and Smith & Wollensky, but the high-end dining business is highly fragmented so it also must contend with many locally-owned white tablecloth establishments. It also competes with some upscale-casual concepts such as McCormick & Schmick's and Del Frisco's that offer culinary quality at a somewhat more modest price.
Formerly known as Ruth's Chris Steak House, the company changed its name in 2008 after acquiring the portfolio of Mitchell's Fish Market restaurants from regional fine-dining operator Cameron Mitchell Restaurants for more than $90 million. Michael O'Donnell was named CEO following the acquisition after Craig Miller resigned. Miller had led Ruth's Chris since 2004. O'Donnell previously served as chairman of Champps Entertainment.
The company's humble beginnings stretch back to 1965, when the late Ruth Fertel, looking for a way to send her sons to college, mortgaged her house and bought Chris Steak House in New Orleans (later adding her first name to the restaurant's moniker). After many years operating as a privately held business, Ruth's Chris went public in 2005, raising more than $230 million through an IPO. – less