Ruth's Chris Steak House is one of the biggest brands in American beef, known for its high-quality, broiled steaks served on sizzling-hot plates in a none-too-stuffy atmosphere that's carefully positioned somewhere between casual and fine dining.
With 155 locations worldwide, the popular steakhouse chain's bold-faced, red-and-white signage—stamped "U.S. Prime" to spotlight its beef bonafides—is a familiar sight, particularly in many suburban communities throughout the United States.
However, several facets of the customer experience are quickly shifting now under new ownership. Florida-based dining behemoth Darden Restaurants, which operates Olive Garden and many other popular chains, acquired Ruth's Chris over the summer, and the company isn't wasting much time in remodeling its newest asset to its ways of doing business. Darden announced in September that it expected to make $10 million worth of investments in Ruth's Chris locations (78 of which are company-owned, the rest are franchised).
Darden President and CEO Rick Cardenas told investors during an earnings call on Friday that many of the planned changes are already underway—one of which involves a very popular cut of steak. "One of the investments we made was an improvement in their filet," Cardenas said, without providing specifics. "I don't think that's in every restaurant yet."
But, the beef itself isn't the only area where change is afoot. Cardenas also announced three major shakeups in the chain's operation.
For starters, customers can no longer get Ruth's Chris' steaks and chops delivered to their homes. The chain previously offered home delivery through partners DoorDash, Uber Eats, and GrubHub, according to its website, but Darden has abruptly eliminated that service.
Cardenas explained that the company doesn't see much benefit to delivery, preferring to focus instead on to-go orders that customers pick up themselves. "We've had third-party delivery in a few restaurants for quite a while, and the performance in those restaurants isn't significantly different than the ones that don't have it," he said. "So, we still feel really confident about our decision to stay out of the third-party delivery. Even if we had to price more to cover that, our consumer would see that as our price—not necessarily the price for delivery. So, as of now, we're still steadfast in our resolve to stay out of third-party delivery."
Furthermore, customers who like to dine at lunchtime will need to find a new midday meal spot. Cardenas said the company has "eliminated lunch wherever possible." He did not explain why.
Lastly, unlike last year, Ruth's Chris will be "closing most restaurants" on Christmas Day, Cardenas said. That's consistent with company policy at other Darden-owned restaurants. Olive Garden, for instance, is closed on both Thanksgiving and Christmas "to allow our team members to spend time with their family and friends," according to its website.
Darden reported $2.7 billion of total sales during the last quarter, 9.7% higher than 2022, partly driven by the addition of Ruth's Chris and 45 other new restaurants under the company's ever-expanding umbrella.