Embracing the Local Community – Ruthâ€™s Chris Style
Insights from Nancy Oswald
Every Ruthâ€™s Chris Steak House, whether in a large metropolitan city or smaller town, takes pride in being not only a restaurant, but also a part of the local community.Â Â Decisions to invest in a community are the driving force of any new business decision we make.Â We follow general business principles when selecting cities to open new restaurants, examining population and income demographics, executing detailed analyses of exact restaurant locations and consulting our experienced legal counsel Charles Hoff.Â Our Ruthâ€™s Chris Steak Houses in Huntsville, Ala., and Columbia, S.C., are located adjacent to convention centers, enabling us to appeal to traveling groups, convention audiences and locals alike.Â We have partnered with premium hotels including Embassy Suites, Hilton and Crowne Plaza in Birmingham, Ala., Huntsville, Columbia, Greenville, S.C., and Kennesaw, Ga., providing strong and synergistic relationships.Â The overall economic aspects of a potential city and opportunities within the local dining community are always very important, but we examine closely a variety of situations and facets to help ensure the success of Ruthâ€™s Chris in that particular market.
We have found Ruthâ€™s Chris is successful in smaller cities predominately because the areas open our restaurants have embraced the Ruthâ€™s Chris brand and greatly welcomed us. The townsâ€™ pride in having a Ruthâ€™s Chris Steak House has elicited an endearing degree of support.Â When we opened in Huntsville, in October 2006, then-Mayor Loretta Spencer attended every opening event, leading our signature jazz procession for the Ruthâ€™s â€œChrisâ€-ening with parasol in tow.Â A Ruthâ€™s Chris â€œraving fan,â€ she was such a visible fixture during our first few weeks open that we designated her favorite table as â€œThe Mayorâ€™s Table.â€Â Her kindness in honoring the restaurant and visiting Ruthâ€™s Chris corporate executives with keys to the city remains a highlight of the restaurantâ€™s history. The Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison Countyâ€™s executive team invited us to their offices and educated our local team on the areaâ€™s economic background, position and goals to ensure we were well-informed about the Huntsville business scene, enabling us to make strategic decisions with that knowledge.
We experienced similar Southern hospitality in Columbia. The cityâ€™s Mayor Bob Coble, affectionately known to citizens as â€œMayor Bob,â€ declared our opening day of August 20, 2007 as â€œRuthâ€™s Chris Steak House Dayâ€ in the City of Columbia.Â In addition to the mayor, our Columbia opening was attended by many local dignitaries, including University of South Carolina football Coach Steve Spurrier, the governor and lieutenant governor. The city embraced our arrival and afforded us rare opportunities for high-profile media coverage that might not have been available in more intensely news-laden metropolitan areas.
Further, our success in areas less populated than Atlanta is the way Ruthâ€™s Chris immerses ourselves in new communities.Â In Columbia, we dedicated our pre-opening charity events to South Carolinaâ€™s Harvest Hope Food Bank following their devastating loss from a coolerâ€™s sprinkler malfunction. The pre-opening events raised more than $16,000 for the food bank, immediately creating a corps of dedicated supporters who understood that Ruthâ€™s Chris is a civic-minded business and awakening the food bankâ€™s desire help us succeed.
Our restaurants have thrived in part because of our direct involvement with key community organizations.Â We make a point of establishing caring partnerships and have been fortunate to engage in instantly reciprocal processes â€“ processes that must continue long past opening festivities.
One of Ruthâ€™s Chris Steak Houseâ€™s four core values is that we are good civic citizens, continuing to honor the legacy of our founder, Ruth Fertel, who was passionate in her belief that commitment to community involvement is our part in developing society.Â Â Much like Fertel, my Sizzling Steak Concepts, LLC franchise partners, Jim Brooks, Phil Brooks and Mark Oswald and I are dedicated to community and caring for guests by serving the highest quality food with exceptional service in warm and inviting atmospheres.
Nancy Oswald is a Sizzling Steak Concepts, LLC partner, owner of 8 Ruthâ€™s Chris Steak Houses and a former Chairperson for the Georgia Restaurant Associationâ€™s Board of Directors.