Britney Ruby Miller Weathers the Storm

Through industry upheaval, the heir to the Jeff Ruby throne pushed her restaurants to new heights.
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Through industry upheaval, the heir to the Jeff Ruby culinary throne pushed her restaurants to new heights.

Photograph courtesy Jeff Ruby Culinary Group

How are you changing the dining experience in Cincinnati?

One of our core values with our company is to change the game. When we originally shut down [for COVID], we had to figure out what it was like for guests to dine outside the restaurant. So the introduction of the meal kits and delivery program [changed things]. The shutdown not only gave us an opportunity to change the game with our guests, but it was the opportunity to change the game with how restaurant operators all interacted. We’ve always all been friendly competitors. At this point, it was really camaraderie amongst all of us.

When the original shutdown happened, I hosted a weekly call. It quickly became a mass group text with all the other restaurant operators that are changing the game. It’s all of us who had to change in order to keep our industry alive becoming a tight-knit group of folks in our community and our industry because we wanted to have one unified voice on how we were safely going to reopen.

It sounds like growing that camaraderie can only benefit diners.

I remember José Salazar [of Salazar Restaurant and Bar, Goose & Elder, and Mita’s] sent us a playbook from someone in Asia who was a great restaurant operator. I gave that to my team, and we all used that as a template. Having that opportunity to say Hey, is this what you guys are doing? helped. None of us knew how to operate a restaurant during a pandemic.

Will any of the changes made during COVID extend past the pandemic?

There are other revenue streams that we opened doors for. We are doing basically a white tablecloth delivery program. I think there’s always going to be a certain amount of people who never feel safe dining in restaurants again. We also opened up the business of the grocery-style meal kits. Those are the steaks, mac and cheese, salad, a family bundle kit for four that is significantly underpriced if you were to walk in the restaurants and we were to cook it for you and you get that whole experience. They are still going really strong, which means there’s still a demand for that. I don’t foresee that changing, really, ever.

Who has helped you along the way?

My dad [restaurateur Jeff Ruby] was always my mentor, so watching the way he looked at the dining scene, the way he drove menus and ideas, the way he built the restaurants, designed the restaurants, he really taught me a lot and still does teach me a lot. During COVID, even though I am CEO, it was certainly reassuring having him double-checking all the decisions. He lives across the street from me, so there was constant communication; I think was refreshing for both of us to see each other during the lockdown.

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