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Turnaround report: Ruby Tuesday shoots high again, McDonald’s gets validation

Ruby Tuesday aims higher again with steaks

In a move sure to prompt some head scratching, the casual-dining stalwart has added a new menu line called Grillhouse Steaks, consisting of sirloin, ribeye and strip cuts.

The strips and sirloins are offered with such garnishes as portabellos, Asiago cheese and peppercorns. The ribeye is blackened Cajun-style.

The puzzler is the pricing. Ruby’s core challenge is undoing the damage of a disastrous shift upmarket into the menu and average-ticket territory of far swankier brands. The concept’s clientele in essence abandoned the chain for more approachable options.

Ruby initially tried to win them back with high-craft/low-price options like hand-breaded chicken fingers. Now it’s switching to lures priced in the mid to upper teens. In the suburbs of New York, for instance, the charges range from a low of $16.99 for the ‘Bella Mushroom Sirloin to $19.59 for the Asiago Peppercorn Strip.

Bob Evans Farms comes out of its shell

Hopes for a turnaround by the family chain have rested largely to date on broasted chicken, a dish that promises the taste and crunch of fried chicken without any immersion in oil. That changes tomorrow when the breakfast-dependent brand rolls a new morning menu promising fresher, more wholesome and healthier options.

A better coffee is part of the relaunch, as is the use of butter instead of margarine.

One of the big nods to freshness is the switch to shell eggs. Instead of pouring egg goop, the chain will now crack eggs for its omelets and the like.

The changeover is touted as a way of serving more wholesome breakfasts. Lucky for Bob Evans, shell eggs are also considerably less expensive at the moment than liquid eggs.

Applebee’s hook-a-thon

The wheezing casual chain is wielding more hooks in its latest traffic promotion than a trawler full of weekend fishermen. 

The basic bait is a burger. Applebee’s is adding two new versions to its All-in line, all of which feature patties with mixed-in flavorings. The extensions are the All-Day Brunch Burger, a patty ground with bacon and onions and topped with an egg,  hash browns and cheese; and the Blazin’ Texan, a grind of beef, jalapenos and onions topped with shredded brisket, white cheddar and “Applebee’s signature sauce.”

Just to recap: Promotional materials can tout bacon, an egg as a burger topping, jalapenos, barbecue and even a secret ingredient. Some chains build a promotion around just one of those draws.

But none of those are likely to be as magnetic as an accompanying push for football fans. To play off Monday night football games, Applebee’s is cutting the dinnertime price of the All-in line to $6.99, unlimited serving of fries or chips included.

Ranking suggests McDonald’s is on the right track

“Breakfastarians” may not be a tip-of-the-tongue term for most restaurateurs, but it’s likely prompting high-fives in McDonald’s headquarters. A poll of those eggs-and-bacon fanatics—a breakfastarian craves breakfast staples ‘round the clock—shows McDonald’s outshining all competitors as a choice for a p.m. version of the morning meal.

Forty-one percent of consumers who eat at least one breakfast-style meal per day say their first choice for a second or third breakfast is McDonald’s.  The next-highest finisher in the YouGov BrandIndex survey was Subway, at 34 percent, and IHOP, at 32 percent.

The findings come as McDonald’s is preparing to offer a scaled-down breakfast menu all day.  Although the franchisor has not revealed exactly when it will roll out all-day breakfast, the widespread speculation calls for an October green light. 

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