Ruth's Chris Steak House
|Founded||In 1965 at Broad Street in New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Headquarters||Winter Park, Florida, USA|
|Number of locations||130+ steakhouses|
|Key people||Mike O'Donnell (Chairman & CEO), Kevin Toomy (Chief Operating Officer), Ruth Fertel (founder)|
|Parent||Ruth's Hospitality Group|
Ruth's Chris Steak House is a chain of 135 steakhouses across the United States and in several international locations. The restaurant is regarded as an upscale fine dining establishment, marking a gradual elevation in its status since its founding in the 1960s. Ruth's Chris is currently the largest luxury steak company in number of locations, operating income, and overall profit, larger than The Palm and Morton's. On May 22, 2008, the company underwent rebranding and became part of Ruth's Hospitality Group after its acquisition of Mitchell's Fish Market. The group has its headquarters in Winter Park, Florida.
The original Chris Steak House (1927-1965) 
Chris Steak House was founded on February 27, 1927 by New Orleans entrepreneur Chris Matulich. It was located at 11 Broad Street near the New Orleans Fairgrounds Racetrack, seated 60 people, and had no parking lot. During Matulich's 38-year management, the business was sold six times, failing each time, and enabling him to buy the restaurant back cheaply from the purchasers. 
Ownership by Ruth Fertel, 1965-1999 
Acquisition, 1965 
In 1965, divorced single mother Ruth Fertel, realizing she needed to earn more money to send her teenage sons to college, mortgaged her house to purchase the restaurant, ignoring the advice of her banker, lawyer, and friends, and despite knowing nothing about the restaurant business. She initially planned to raise just $18,000 to cover the purchase price, until it was pointed out to her that she would need an additional $4,000 to cover the cost of renovations and food. On her first day, May 24, 1965, she sold 35 steaks at $5 each.
Fertel personally took a hand in every part of the business. She had to teach herself how to butcher steak, and despite being just five-foot-two and 110-pounds, would saw up 30-pound short loins by hand until she could afford an electric band saw. She staffed her restaurant with single mothers, saying that they were hard workers and reliable. For many years, Chris' Steak House was the only upscale restaurant in New Orleans with an all-female wait staff.
From the beginning her restaurant attracted local politicians as well as athletes, businessmen and reporters. Political reporter Rosemary James noted that she "would not have missed a Friday before a major election at Ruth's Chris Steak House. That was the place to be if you wanted to get some scoops." Local celebrities like Fats Domino were regulars.
Name change to Ruth's Chris Steak House, 1976 
In early 1976, shortly after signing a new ten-year lease on the restaurant, a fire destroyed the building. Fertel had recently acquired a second property nearby to rent out as party space. Within seven days, she had relocated the restaurant to its new location a few blocks away at 711 Broad Street and re-opened it, expanding to 160 seats in the process. The sales agreement with Matulich prevented her from using the original name at any other address, so she named the new restaurant Ruth's Chris Steak House in order to keep some continuity with the previous location. She admitted later to Fortune Magazine that "I've always hated the name, but we've always managed to work around it."
Expansion and franchising, 1976-1999 
The first franchised restaurant was opened in 1977 by a loyal customer, T.J. Moran, in Baton Rouge, who went on to open several more franchised Ruth's Chris locations through his company T.J. Moran Associates. Fertel noted, "All our franchisees were people who had eaten at one time or another in one of our restaurants. We never looked for franchisees. They came to us." The chain expanded rapidly over the next two decades, with 66 locations in the US and overseas by mid-1998, and achieving over $200m in annual revenues. This success earned Fertel a number of accolades as an entrepreneur, and the epithet The First Lady of American Restaurants or The Empress of Steak.
Acquisition by Madison Dearborn 1999-2005 
In 1999, Fertel, now 72, fell ill after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She sold a 79.3% interest in the chain in August 1999 to investment company Madison Dearborn Partners of Chicago, remaining as a shareholder until her death in 2002.
In this period, the chain expanded to 86 restaurants, including 10 overseas locations. Revenues fell to $167.8m in 2003, before rising again to $192.2m in 2004. 
Public company, 2005 onwards 
On August 9, 2005, under President & CEO Craig Miller, Ruth's Chris Steak House became a public company following a successful IPO valuing the company at $235m and an increase of 15% in first-day trading.
Advertising efforts are primarily focused in the talk radio market and its male demographic. The chain has cultivated paid endorsements from several radio celebrities, including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, with the latter proclaiming Ruth's to be his favorite restaurant. 
Relocation to Florida, 2005 
In late August 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated Greater New Orleans (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans), and the chain moved its corporate headquarters to Heathrow, Florida. Like most businesses in the city, two of the chain's locations in the New Orleans area were forced to close because of the storm. The Metairie location has since reopened. Members of the Fertel family, particularly Ruth's son Randy, were bitterly opposed to the move. Amid much criticism by local officials and media, and on the heels of the announcement by Morton's that it would reopen its own New Orleans branch, the corporate offices announced that, due to extensive damage, the old flagship location on Broad Street would be permanently closed and donated to charity. In May 2008, Ruth's Chris reopened in New Orleans and is centrally located downtown in Harrah's Hotel at 525 Fulton Street, New Orleans.
Recent expansion and current performance 
In February 2008, the company purchased the Mitchell's Fish Restaurant and Columbus Fish Market brands from Cameron Mitchell Restaurants for $92m. As the recession began to bite, the acquisition was not initially successful. The stock price fell from $22 in 2006 to under $5 and company debts rose to $185m. CFO Tom Pennison resigned, and CEO Craig Miller was ousted by the board to be replaced by Mike McDonnell. McDonnell restructured and rebranded the company, creating Ruth's Hospitality Group (RHGI) as the parent entity in May 2008, allowing each of the individual restaurant brands to have their own identity within the group. The current President and COO is Kevin Toomy, formerly owner and president of the award winning Goldcoast Seafood Grill in South Florida.
In February 2013, RHGI reported that 4th quarter sales at Ruth's Chris restaurants were up by 7.0% on the previous year, representing the 11th consecutive quarterly increase in sales.
Ruth's Chris continues to add new restaurants, most recently in Harrah's casino in Las Vegas in January 2013, after the previous Las Vegas location on Flamingo closed in 2009. The company has announced plans for 2013 that include an expansion into China, a new restaurant in Denver, CO, and four or five new franchised locations.
Most restaurants are open for dinner only, although some locations also offer lunch. The dress code is usually a range from business/dressy to business casual. Most locations have private dining facilities and offer business communications via satellite. The company also offers outside catering and a wedding service through the Ruth's Weddings brand.
The weekday Sizzle, Swizzle, Swirl Happy Hour offers a selection of cocktails, wines, beers and bar food at a fixed price of $7.00.
The restaurant's signature is serving USDA prime steaks that are seared at 1800° Fahrenheit (982.2 °C) and served on ceramic plates heated to 500° Fahrenheit (260.0 °C). Half an ounce (1 Tbsp) of butter is added just before the plates leave the kitchen in order to create the signature 'sizzle'. Fertel firmly believed that the success of her steaks was due as much to the sound and smell of the 'sizzle' as well as the taste. "You hear that sizzle, and you think, 'I wonder if that's my steak'", she commented in an interview shortly before her death.
Portions generally are large enough to serve two or more diners. Family style side dishes include au gratin potatoes, topped with a bechamel sauce and Cheddar cheese. Some recipes, such as the BBQ shrimp, New Orleans style creamed spinach or the sweet potato casserole, are traditional 19th century Louisiana recipes that originate with Ruth Fertel's family, particularly her great-uncle Martin, a Louisiana Delta farmer from a French-Alsatian family. Some of these recipes have been made publicly available by the family and by the company.
In 2009, Ruth's Chris introduced their "Ruth's Classics" menu of prix fixe meals where guests choose a three-course meal; starter, entree and side, and dessert. This menu is updated seasonally every three months.
The award-winning wine list includes over 200 wines, primarily from leading Californian vineyards such as Mondavi, Beringer and Stag's Leap. 25 or more wines are available by the glass, depending on location.
The seasonal vintage-inspired cocktail selection, introduced in 2011 by Beverage Director Helen Mackey, includes both classic and contemporary hand-crafted cocktails.
(Information correct at February 2013.)
United States 
- Birmingham, AL
- Huntsville, AL
- Mobile, AL
- Scottsdale, AZ
- Rogers, AR
- Anaheim, CA
- Beverly Hills, CA
- Fresno, CA
- Irvine, CA
- Palm Desert, CA
- Pasadena, CA
- Roseville, CA
- Sacramento, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Diego (Del Mar), CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Walnut Creek, CA
- Woodland Hills, CA
- Newington, CT
- Washington (Connecticut Ave), DC
- Washington (Convention Center), DC
- Boca Raton, FL
- Bonita Springs, FL
- Coral Gables, FL
- Destin, FL
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Jacksonville (Riverfront), FL
- Lake Mary, FL
- North Palm Beach, FL
- Orlando (West Sand Lake Road), FL
- Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
- Sarasota, FL
- Tampa, FL
- West Palm Beach, FL
- Winter Park (North Orlando Area), FL
- Atlanta (Buckhead), GA
- Atlanta (Centennial Park), GA
- Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA
- Kennesaw, GA
- Savannah, GA
- Honolulu (Oahu), HI
- Kohala Coast (Mauna Lani-Big Island), HI
- Lahaina (Maui), HI
- Waikiki (Oahu), HI
- Wailea (Maui), HI
- Chicago, IL
- Northbrook, IL
- South Barrington, IL
- Granger (Mishawaka), IN
- Indianapolis (Downtown), IN
- Indianapolis (Northside), IN
- Louisville, KY
- Baton Rouge, LA
- Lafayette, LA
- Metairie, LA
- New Orleans, LA
- Annapolis, MD
- Baltimore, MD
- Baltimore (Pier V Hotel), MD
- Berlin (Ocean City), MD
- Bethesda, MD
- Pikesville, MD
- Boston, MA
- Grand Rapids, MI
- Troy (Detroit), MI
- Minneapolis, MN
- Biloxi, MS
- Ridgeland, MS
- Clayton (St. Louis), MO
- Kansas City, MO
- St. Louis (Downtown), MO
- Las Vegas, NV
- Atlantic City, NJ
- Parsippany, NJ
- Princeton, NJ
- Weehawken, NJ
- Garden City (Long Island), NY
- New York City (Manhattan), NY
- Tarrytown (Westchester), NY
- Asheville, NC
- Cary, NC
- Charlotte (SouthPark), NC
- Charlotte (Uptown), NC
- Cherokee (Harrahs Cherokee Casino and Hotel), NC
- Durham, NC
- Greensboro, NC
- Raleigh, NC
- Wilmington (Hilton Wilmington Riverside), NC
- Cincinnati, OH
- Columbus, OH
- Portland, OR
- King of Prussia, PA
- Philadelphia, PA
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Wilkes-Barre, PA
- Providence, RI
- Columbia, SC
- Greenville, SC
- Myrtle Beach, SC
Chattanooga, Tennessee opening in June 2013
- Knoxville, TN
- Memphis, TN
- Nashville, TN
- Austin, TX
- Dallas (North Dallas), TX
- Fort Worth, TX
- Houston, TX
- San Antonio (Downtown), TX
- San Antonio (North Airport), TX
- Park City, UT
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Arlington, VA
- Fairfax, VA
- Richmond (Midlothian), VA
- Vienna (Tysons Corner), VA
- Virginia Beach, VA
- Bellevue, WA
- Seattle, WA
- Middleton (Madison), WI
- San Salvador, El Salvador
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Aruba (Palm Beach), Dutch Caribbean
- Calgary, Alberta
- Edmonton, Alberta
- Mississauga, Ontario
- Niagara Falls
- Toronto, Ontario
- Admiralty Hong Kong Island
- Kowloon, Hong Kong
- Tokyo (Chiyoda-Ku)
- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Cancun, Mexico
- Kaohsiung, Taiwan
- Taichung, Taiwan
- Taipei, Taiwan
- Dubai Marina
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- "Ruth's Weddings". Retrieved 20 February 2013.
- Savor Perfection with a Steak from Ruth's Chris Steak House, Ruth's Chris Steak House, accessed July 2, 2007.
- Do What You Love (video 2013)
- Sample menu, ruthschris.com, accessed April 22, 2007.
- "The origin of Ruth's Chris Creamed Spinach recipe". The Times-Picayune, Nov 30, 2012. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- "Ruth’s Chris Taps Growth Opportunity With Creative By The Glass Wine Program". Shanken News Daily, July 7, 2011. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
- "Ruth’s Chris Steak House Introduces a New Vintage-Inspired Cocktail Program". Restaurant Magazine. Retrieved 19 February 2013.