If it weren't for a couple of adjustments, restaurateur Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RT) would have just posted its fourth straight year of lower earnings. But if it isn't careful, next year could result in more of the same.

Ruby Tuesday is currently stuck in a pattern of falling same-store sales, and is working furiously "to build a fresh new brand" by remodeling most older stores, introducing new menus, and right-sizing the mix of franchised versus company-owned stores. It also plans on being "more selective on new locations" by opening 20-25 restaurants next year and franchising another 25-35 on top of the more than 900 existing locations.

Overall, this sounds to me like standard operating procedure for a concept that is struggling to revitalize itself. Total annual sales grew a respectable 8%, despite an extra week in the last fiscal year and negative comps of 3.3% and 0.5% at company-owned and franchised stores, respectively.

Reported earnings fell almost 4% for the year, but would have grown nearly 9% had it not been for the extra week last year, options expense charges, and a least-related charge. However, next year could be challenging as well, as current company guidance calls for negative first-quarter comps and plenty of spending to revitalize the store base.

I'm not finding much to suggest Ruby Tuesday will build its fresh new brand anytime soon, so I'll place it in a crowded category of restaurant operators that have fallen off the food wagon. This unsavory list includes Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB), O'Charley's (NASDAQ:CHUX), and CBRL Group (NASDAQ:CBRL), owner of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores. OSI Partners and its floundering Outback Steakhouses recently went private, suggesting there is appeal in investing in franchises that are trying to recapture at least a portion of their faster-growing former selves.        

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.