KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Two local restaurants have closed their doors Wednesday after Knoxville-based Ruby Tuesday announced they were cutting ties with some of their franchises.
The Ruby Tuesday corporation has faced an uneven several years, and today's decision is another sign of the difficult times regarding the company's properties.
In its quarterly report released Wednesday, and the first report by new president and CEO JJ Buettgen, Ruby Tuesday announced the immediate closing of their Wok Hay and Marlin and Ray's restaurant. For many customers of the West Knoxville eateries, the news came as a surprise.
"I'm surprised because we've got some friends who were supposed to meet us for dinner and now we'll have to go to plan B," said Tom Morgan, who like several other customers showed up at Wok Hay for dinner.
Instead of dinner though, they were met with a sign that read, "We will be closed tonight for a team meeting. We thank you in advance for your understanding."
The sign on the door of Marlin and Ray's was more direct, reading "Effective today, January 9th 2013, Marlin and Ray's is closed for business."
After a slow quarter for Ruby Tuesday, the company announced all 13 Marlin and Ray's, two here locally, and the one Wok Hay would close.
The company's new CEO Buettgen said,"Given the uncertain and volatile consumer spending environment, as well as the level of competitive intensity we have seen in the restaurant sector over the last several months, we are projecting approximately flat same-restaurant sales for the year."
The report said the company's first and most critical priority is the Ruby Tuesday brand.
"While this was a difficult decision to make, we have determined the Marlin & Ray's brand is not an optimal conversion vehicle for us going forward. For similar reasons, we also have decided to close and exit our one Wok Hay restaurant and seek a buyer for our two licensed Truffles Grill restaurants," Buettgen said in the report.
For customers though, some wished there had been a little bit more warning.
"Certainly there's always a better way to handle something like that than shock and awe," said Morgan.
As for the employees at these restaurants, the company said they will do everything they can to find them work at the other Ruby Tuesday restaurants.
The company said cutting ties with its other brands will allow it to focus on turning around sales at their namesake restaurant.
Ruby Tuesday expanded to other restaurant concepts under the direction of its founder Sandy Beall. Beall stepped down as president and CEO in November after 40 years.