JJ Buettgen has relinquished his duties as CEO of the Ruby Tuesday casual-dining chain to longtime segment veteran Lane Cardwell, who will serve in the post until a permanent replacement is found, Ruby's parent company said this afternoon.
The resignation of Buettgen follows a four-year effort by the onetime Darden Restaurants and Brinker International veteran to turn around Ruby Tuesday. The chain recently announced that it was closing 95 of its 646 restaurants to stem the parent company's losses, which hit $27.6 million for the fourth quarter ended May 31. The brand has been unable to win back customers through such moves as trimming the menu, showcasing low-priced items like chicken fingers and burgers, and updating its signature salad bar.
Cardwell has worked in the casual-dining business since Steak and Ale, one of the sector's first concepts, was still a player. He spent much of his career at Brinker International, playing a key role in scouting the market and looking for new opportunities as Brinker morphed from the operator of a single concept, Chili's, to a giant with an extensive stable of brands.
He has also served as president of P.F. Chang's and CEO of Boston Market and Eatzi's. He also serves on a number of boards, including Ruby Tuesday's. Last week he was named a director of Falcon Realty Advisor, a real estate concern in Dallas.
Through a long career, Cardwell has been involved with 29 casual-dining concepts.
He has also assumed Buettgen's former president's title on an interim basis.
Buettgen also served as the chairman of Ruby Tuesday's board. The company said he will not seek re-election at the company's annual meeting next month, and that director Stephen Sadove has been named non-executive chairman.