Ruby Tuesday to expand Lime Fresh chain

April 11, 2012 at 3:29 PM

MIAMI, April 11 (UPI) -- U.S. restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday said it would expand on its newest purchase, a 16-restaurant chain based in Miami called the Lime Fresh Mexican Grill.

"We're excited about this brand. It represents excellent new unit growth opportunity in the high-quality fast casual sector and has the potential to create extremely good returns," said Ruby Tuesday's Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Samuel Beall.

Ruby Tuesday is set to close on its $24 million cash deal that gives it control of Lime Fresh chain Wednesday, The Miami Herald reported.

Ruby Tuesday, however, has had a licensing arrangement with Lime Fresh for the past year and a half and has experience opening new franchises. It has opened Lime Fresh locations in Atlanta, Washington and Alabama in the past year and a half.

"This was the best of both worlds," said the chain's founder, John Kunkel.

"As a small operator there was no way I could roll out 50 new stores in the next year. (However) … they have the capital to grow the brand and the infrastructure to support the growth," he said, referring to Ruby Tuesday.

With the deal, Kunkel has taken a seat on Ruby Tuesday's board of directors and will continue to manage the flagship franchise in South Beach, Fla.

He also has other plans to open two new restaurants in South Florida and explore the possibility of launching a "fast-casual" with a Southeast Asian menu.

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