A former cook at the Ruby Tuesday at 210 Malcolm Drive in Westminster painted a pretty depressing picture of the restaurant’s final hours on Monday night. “Around like 7:30 p.m. the district manager comes in. There’s people eating, it’s the middle of dinner, he puts signs on the doors saying, store closed for business and locks the doors from the inside, even though there are people still eating," Stephanie Young told us, explaining how the employees learned the restaurant was closing. “The district manager says the reason is lack of profit.”
There’s no good way to close a business. Still, even some of the hundreds of online commenters on our article about the closing took time out from making snarky remarks to criticize the manner in which this was handled and express sympathy for those who lost jobs. We certainly feel for the workers, some of whom had been with Ruby Tuesday for many years, and wish them well in their search for new employment.
Clearly, it isn’t easy to survive in the cutthroat restaurant industry Many studies have been done on success rates and, according to one by Ohio State University, 60% of restaurants close or change ownership in the first year of business and 80% close within the first five years. Competition for business is fierce everywhere, particularly on the stretch of Md. 140 coming into and through Westminster. Ruby Tuesday’s closing comes only 10 months after nearby Friendly’s closed.
Both of those restaurants were part of chains, of course, and their closings may have had more to do with corporate issues than how many local customers were eating there. Ruby Tuesday has shuttered more than 120 locations since 2016, according to reporting by Restaurant Business, with nine locations closed in just the first week of September. The company responded to a voicemail from the Times with an unattributed statement sent via email from a public relations firm. “While it is never an easy decision to close restaurants, the closures are a necessary step as we focus on executing on our long term growth strategy and building a stronger business for the future," the statement read. “We appreciate the communities that have supported us.”
Before the restaurant could even erase “Now Hiring Team Members” from its entrance, speculation was already rampant in the online community as to what might take its place. As would-be Ruby Tuesday customer Rod Williams of Owings Mills told us Tuesday afternoon, “It’s a nice location.” Thus, as with the proverbial window, one restaurant’s closing presents an opening for someone else. Williams is hoping for a Shake Shack. Online suggestions ran the gamut from steak to seafood to various types of authentic ethnic cuisine. There was even a call for a relocated Friendly’s, though many are hoping for a family-owned, mom-and-pop place.
Change is difficult and local residents hate losing restaurants they frequently patronized, particularly those that have been around for many years. But change is also inevitable. It was only a little more than three years ago that Westminster lost its iconic Harry’s Main Street Grille — and there remains a hot dog void in central Carroll — but RockSalt Grille moved in and has become quite the popular spot on Main Street. It’s impossible to say what could become the next beloved restaurant in Carroll County.
So, to again gratuitously quote Mick Jagger, goodbye, Ruby Tuesday. Deeper in that Rolling Stones song, Sir Mick gives advice that could be appropriate to anyone contemplating opening a business on the former Ruby Tuesday site: catch your dreams before they slip away.