After nine months as CEO of Ruby Tuesday, Ray Blanchette has left the job to assume the same position at archrival TGI Fridays, succeeding Aslam Khan.
Khan, a franchisee of Fridays and several quick-service concepts, moves up to vice chairman.
Blanchette’s successor at Ruby Tuesday has not been named.
The Fridays job is Blanchette’s third CEO position since being replaced in November 2015 as CEO of Ignite Restaurant Group, then the parent of Joe’s Crab Shack and Brickhouse Tavern + Tap. Blanchette founded Ignite as a holding company for casual-dining brands, a strategy that was derailed by the acquisition of Romano’s Macaroni Grill. That deal proved disastrous for Ignite, leading to a bankruptcy and change in management.
Before founding Ignite in 2007, Blanchette had been president and COO of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, at that time the parent company of Fridays. He started his career with Fridays and worked in a variety of positions for 18 years before leaving to build his own portfolio of brands.
Most of his career has been spent in casual dining, with the exception of a stint as CEO of the Au Bon Pain fast-casual chain for 20 months. His tenure there culminated in the sale of the chain to JAB Holding Co., whose Panera Bread business formerly owned it.
Immediately after leaving Au Bon Pain, Blanchette was hired as CEO of Ruby Tuesday, which had just been acquired by NRD Capital, a private-equity firm. NRD principal Aziz Hazim, who was serving as CEO of Ruby at the time, acknowledged that it was an appointment of opportunity.
Blanchette said in a statement that the CEO’s job at Fridays is “my dream job.” He joins the company as it prepares for an expansion push both domestically and overseas.
Fridays and Ruby are two of the oldest brands in the bar and grill subsector of casual dining. Both ran into operational problems and financial difficulties as traffic softened last decade in the market.
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