Marlin and Ray’s fills a key seafood niche


Lauren Kramer, Contributing Editor

Published on
October 2, 2012

Ruby Tuesday has faced flagging sales for some time. Same-restaurant sales for the fiscal year 2012 decreased 5.7 percent at domestic U.S. franchised units. Although the company closed 25 restaurants, the locations that did a high volume of seafood sales were converted into a new brand: Marlin & Ray’s, a group of seafood restaurants with a fun, lively atmosphere.

“Marlin & Ray’s provided a conversion strategy at an investment cost of less than USD 500,000 in markets where we had a high density of Ruby Tuesdays,” says Richard Flaherty, VP-operations. “We recognized there was some consumer demand for seafood, so we looked at the landscape of competition surrounding that restaurant, and where there wasn’t direct competition for seafood we saw it as an opportunity to introduce Marlin and Ray’s.”

The first location opened in Maryville, Tenn., in April 2011 and others soon followed: Knoxville, Tenn.; Manassas, Fairfax and Stafford, Va.; Acworth and Lithonia, Ga.; Hilliard and West Chester, Ohio; Bensalem, Pa.; and most recently, Wilmington, N.C. in May 2012.

The restaurants’ original Ruby Tuesdays configuration has remained essentially the same, with the exception of the salad bars, which have been removed. “That gives us more room for the bar areas, where we’ve introduced large community tables,” Flaherty says.

While Ruby Tuesdays’ alcohol sales generate 10 percent of revenues, at Marlin & Ray’s alcohol accounts for between 18 and 21 percent of sales. “That’s driven by the atmosphere of the restaurant we’re introducing,” he says. “It’s a fish campy, fun, lively, value-based environment that promotes having a great margarita or signature cocktail. When you come in it’s like you’re on vacation. Diners enjoy some good craft beer or adult slushies while eating great seafood.”

Marlin & Ray’s target demographic is similar to that of Ruby Tuesday’s, with an average age of 25 to 42 and an average household income of between USD 55,000 and USD 75,000. The restaurant is also targeting a secondary entry-point consumer, the 22- to 30-year-old.

Seafood constitutes 90 percent of the menu and Marlin & Ray’s leverages its buying and purchasing power from Ruby Tuesdays. There’s an average of 11 species on the menu, including lobster from Maine or Canada, snow crab from the North Atlantic or Alaska, Pacific Rim tilapia and Chilean salmon.

Click here to read the full story which ran in the September issue of SeaFood Business >

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