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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the
August 29, 2001 edition of U.S. Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Out to Lunch: Ruby Tuesday
Good strategy, poor execution. That’s what my husband
and I say when one of us plans a tennis shot the other definitely
has no hope of returning — only to see it fly out of bounds. The
phrase applies perfectly to a new service just rolled out by Ruby
Tuesday, a chain of casual dining restaurants with a restaurant on
Route 1 South at Mapleton Road.
A PR representative from Ruby Tuesday called to tell us all about
it, and it sounded so good, so right on the money, so smart and
that we couldn’t resist trying it. Called simply "To Go!,"
this is takeout with a twist. When you place a takeout order, give
the make and model of your car. Then pull up in front of the
head for one of the specially-marked To Go! spots, and — voila!
— your order will be brought right out to your car. Each
the press material claimed, has installed cameras that announce your
arrival, alerting the designated car-runner to rush out with your
order when you pull up.
Saving customers a 60-foot walk in from the parking lot is a small
thing, but Ruby Tuesday is astute in sensing that this tiny exertion
could be just the step that keeps some from ordering take-out food.
The same people who will walk happily for miles when their steps take
them past storefronts, gardens, and interesting homes, will not
walking through a parking lot, pushing through the crowd waiting for
tables, and finding something to lean on while a takeout order is
being fetched from the kitchen. No one likes it. And after a day at
work, with a rush hour drive ahead, it is the sort of inconvenience
that causes potential takeout customers to decide to heat up some
soup instead of stopping.
Ruby Tuesday came up with a brilliant solution. Call ahead, drive
in, and off you go in a few seconds, lunch or dinner at your side.
The company has spent plenty promoting this service. A PR rep is busy
calling media folks like us. Large signs on every single table in
its restaurants announce To Go!. It is the theme of the company’s
website (www.rubytuesday.com). Cameras have been installed to spot
takeout customers, so we have been told. And right in front of the
Ruby Tuesday entrance are two prime parking spots marked by an orange
traffic cone and signs reading "To Go! Curbside Parking Only.
Welcome. We’ll be Right Out."
The execution problem, however, is major. When I called in an office
lunch order, I asked how I could pay for the food. Cash or credit
card would be fine, I was told. I could work out the details when
I came in. Wait. I hadn’t planned on going in.
"Won’t you bring the food out to my car?" I asked. Oh no,
I was told. The bartender was handling takeout, and she was too busy.
In short, the much-touted service was not available. Would it be
tomorrow, or the next day? I asked. No telling, was the answer. If
someone happens to be free, they will bring it out. The hostess didn’t
sound optimistic about that happy circumstance occurring any time
I canceled the order, but my office mates talked me into placing it
again. On the second call, I got the bartender herself. She explained
that she was alone and it would not be easy for her to get out. She
did say, however, that she was not terribly busy at the moment (11:20
a.m. on a Tuesday), and if I really didn’t want to come in, she would
be glad to bring the food out. I declined at that point. The whole
thing had begun to feel more like an emergency service, perhaps for
the severely restaurant-phobic, rather than a regular offering.
When I walked in, the bartender, a pleasant individual, brought the
order out within a minute or two. Asked about the curbside takeout
system, she said there were few calls for it at lunch time, which
is one reason that no one was assigned to run-outside duty at that
moment. The bigger demand, she says, occurs between 5 and 9 p.m.,
during which hours the service is offered on a more regular basis.
As I left, I couldn’t help but notice four servers standing near
the hostess stand. How much co-ordination would it have taken to
one of them to run out with an order?
There are other problems with Ruby Tuesday takeout. Menus are
online, but do not list prices. Orders cannot be placed online, but
require a phone call. Ruby Tuesday’s menu, like that at many casual
dining chains, is limited. Cheese is the star. Even the veggie burger
comes with several kinds of cheese. Mainstays are burgers, fried
and steaks in sauce. There is an extensive salad bar, but just two
salad takeout choices.
We ordered a Classic cheeseburger, a Chicken Caesar salad, with
on the side, and a "huge" baked potato. The hot food was hot,
and the cold food was cold. The French fries with the cheeseburger
were judged to be "delicious." The salad had been ordered
with dressing on the side — a request that was repeated twice
— because the diner recalled ordering it at Ruby Tuesday before
and finding the greens under way too much dressing. It arrived with
the dressing already added with a liberal hand.
Prices are in-line with those at similar restaurants — $6.50 for
a big burger with fries; $8 for a chicken Caesar salad. Ruby Tuesday
is a good option for takeout in any number of situations and its
is brilliant. Now, let’s have some execution.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
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