Why Ruby Tuesday Shares Got Trashed

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What: Shares of Ruby Tuesday (NYSE: RT  ) were giving investors indigestion today, falling as much as 17% after a lackluster fourth-quarter earnings report.

So what: The restaurant chain reported a $0.12 adjusted-per-share profit, short of expectations of $0.19. Without excluding those additional items, Ruby Tuesday would have seen a $0.49 per-share loss. Revenue was down 11%, to $316.1 million, as it closed some restaurants in the past year, while same-store sales at namesake Ruby Tuesday restaurants dipped 3.1% in company-owned locations, and 5.1% at franchises, indicating organic weakness. CEO JJ Buettgen said the company sees a same-store sales decline of high-single digits in the current quarter, but expects it to turn positive in the second half of the fiscal year due to new menu items and marketing campaigns.

Now what: It's hard to see the positive in this report, but the company is in a transitional phase, having exited the chains Marlin & Ray's, Truffles Grill, and Wok Hay over the past year, in order to focus on the core Ruby Tuesday business, and growing Lime Fresh, a Chipotle competitor. Lime Fresh may be valuable as a future revenue stream, but the company did take a goodwill impairment charge last quarter for its earlier acquisition, which seems to bode poorly. And with just 24 Lime Fresh locations in operation, compared to 783 Ruby Tuesday locations, the vast majority of the business is in its namesake brand. At the very least, I'd wait to see comparable sales moving in the right direction before putting faith in Ruby Tuesday.  

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