Ruby Tuesday is selling or closing the 19 Lime Fresh fast-casual Mexican restaurants it operates but will remain the franchisor for the time being of eight franchised stores.
Eight of the company-run units are being sold to Rubio’s Restaurants, the fish-taco chain, for about $6.3 million. All of those stores are located in Florida.
The 11 others will be shut, Ruby said.
The company left open the possibility of selling franchise rights to the brand, which has long been seen as a potential rival to Chipotle because of its emphasis on fresh ingredients and a contemporary, somewhat upscale design.
“We value our relationships with our Lime Fresh franchisees and while we are maintaining our franchise model, we will continue to evaluate strategic alternatives for the brand,” Ruby Tuesday CEO JJ Buettgen said in a statement.
Lime Fresh is the last remnant from Ruby Tuesday’s failed diversification effort early in the decade. The company had diversified outside of the grill-and-bar market, the turf of its namesake brand, through such concepts as an Asian upstart called Wok Hay, an upscale seafood restaurant called Marlin & Ray’s, and a polished-casual brand at the high end of the spectrum, Truffles. It also converted one of its restaurants into a branch of the Jim ‘N Nick’s barbecue chain, but did not own that brand.
Lime Fresh was added to the fold in April 2012, after Ruby Tuesday had served as a franchisee of the chain. At the time the brand was purchased by Ruby Tuesday, Lime Fresh consisted of seven company stores and five franchises.
Ruby Tuesday had shuttered or otherwise ended its involvement with alternate brands since Buettgen replaced founder Sandy Beall as CEO. Lime Fresh had been the only one spared.