Today, Ruby’s Diner is known for its signature 1940’s style, top quality food and exceptional customer service. But three decades ago, the brand was only an idea that had been dreamed up by founder and CEO Doug Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh first got the idea to create a concept like Ruby’s while running on the beach. It started after he noticed that there was a dilapidated building at the end of Balboa Pier. Recognizing its potential to become something great—and its strong architectural foundation that reminded him of the “good old days”—he set out to bring back the nostalgia associated with traditional diners.
In 1980, Cavanaugh approached the city to rebuild the structure. However, they told him that he needed more experience before they’d give him access to the end of the pier. So Cavanaugh moved to the East Coast and owned and operated a Nantucket restaurant with an attached B&B. After learning the ins and outs of the industry first hand, Cavanaugh returned to his home in California and once again asked the city to purchase the Balboa Island real estate. Seeing that he took their advice to heart, the city agreed to his request and allowed him to lease the building.
“When I first leased the building at the end of Balboa Pier, it was falling apart. And because I didn’t have an unlimited budget, my friends and I learned how to do what we couldn’t afford in order to restore it,” said Cavanaugh. “My goal in building Ruby’s from the ground up was to recreate the style of a classic 1940’s diner as accurately as possible. At the time, there weren’t many diners competing in the restaurant space. And even though our concept has been mimicked many times, there still isn’t another brand that’s able to compete with us.”
By the time Ruby’s officially opened its doors for business in 1982, there was a significant amount of buzz surrounding the restaurant. And as soon as consumers had the opportunity to try the brand’s hand crafted burgers, French fries and milkshakes for themselves, Ruby’s became an instant hit across Southern California. The brand—which is named in honor of Cavanaugh’s mother—racked up nearly $800,000 in sales in the first year alone, when burgers were only $2 per item. And as the restaurant industry has continued to evolve, Ruby’s has continued growing right alongside it.
Today, Ruby’s boasts 35 locations across five states. And although its original lineup of burgers, fries and shakes are still focal points of its menu, the brand has also added a wide variety of delicious items to its menu that take a wide variety of diets into consideration, including vegetarians.
“Our commitment to serving our guests the best food in the industry is one of the biggest things that makes Ruby’s stand out across our entire system. We go above and beyond to ensure that we’re using top tier ingredients, which ultimately creates a positive experience for our guests every time they walk through our doors,” said Stacy Lee, senior director of marketing for Ruby’s Diner. “But our commitment to quality goes far beyond our menu. Every part of our system is designed to enhance the Ruby’s experience for our guests and franchisees.”
In addition to its fan favorite food and classic 1940’s feel, Ruby’s is setting a new standard when it comes to customer service on a daily basis. By creating a positive and family friendly environment where guests feel comfortable, the brand has been able to successfully break into new markets at a rapid rate.
As Ruby’s continues moving forward with its nationwide expansion plans, the brand is positioned to maintain its position at the forefront of the increasingly popular restaurant industry. Ruby’s is actively taking steps to ensure that it’s on the cutting edge of the consumer trends, including rolling out enhanced delivery options with programs like Amazon Restaurants and UberEATS, and state of the art table top ordering technology.
“Just because we’re a 1940’s diner doesn’t mean that we’re behind the times. We’ve found the perfect balance between recreating the authentic dining experience that consumers enjoyed in the past and the latest technology trends that are designed to take customers’ experiences to the next level,” said Cavanaugh. “There’s no doubt that Ruby’s has come a long way since we launched our first location on Balboa Pier, and we’re confident that we’ll continue that trend of improving and innovating going forward.”