flickr: Mike Mozart

Cheryl Henry has been with Ruth's Chris since June 2007.

Cheryl Henry to Assume CEO Role at Ruth’s Chris

Michael P. O’Donnell is stepping into an executive chairman role.

In the culmination of a “multi-year succession planning process,” Ruth’s Hospitality Group, Inc., the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, named Cheryl Henry chief executive officer, effective August 10. Henry, currently COO and president, will replace Michael P. O’Donnell, who is shifting to an executive chairman role. Henry will also take a spot on the board of directors.

Henry has been with the company since June 2007. Over the past 11 years, she has been responsible for nearly every aspect of the company’s day-to-day field operations, Ruth’s Hospitality Group said in a release. This includes culinary, beverage, brand marketing, real estate development, human resources, and information technology.

“Her experience and success managing virtually all aspects of our business over the last decade uniquely qualifies her for the position,” said O’Donnell, who spent about a decade at the helm after a run with Outback Steakhouse, in a statement. “We are highly confident that her proven leadership abilities, combined with a world class team and strong business foundation, will continue to create long term value for all our stakeholders."

Added Henry: "I’m excited to build on our last decade of work and further expand the Ruth’s Chris brand. We have the team in place and a winning strategy, so our goal from here is continued operational execution, the centerpiece of which is a strong and positive brand connection with each and every guest."

Ruth’s reported net income of $13.6 million, or 45 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter of fiscal 2018, compared to $11 million, or 35 cents in the prior-year period. Company-owned same-store sales decreased 1.1 percent, year-over-year. But adjusting for the timing of the 53rd week of 2017 and measuring performance on a comparable calendar basis, they lifted 1.1 percent, which consisted of a traffic increase of 0.1 percent, as measured by entrees, and an average check increase of 1 percent.

Total revenues were $116.5 million in the quarter, an increase of 10.4 percent compared to $105.5 million. In Q1 2017. There were 77 company-run Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurants at the end of the quarter compared to 70 in the prior-year period. There are more than 150 total units around the globe.

“We speak on behalf of the entire franchise community when we say we are delighted to welcome Cheryl as our new CEO,” Nancy and Mark Oswald, the company’s largest franchisee, said in a statement. “Her continuous and unwavering support through the years has been crucial to the growth and success of our brand and we are confident she will bring great things as CEO. At the same time, we thank Mike for his invaluable work over the past ten years and look forward to his continued role as Executive Chairman.”

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to thank Mike O’Donnell for his decade of service as Chairman and CEO,” added Rob Selati, lead director of the Ruth’s Hospitality Group Board. “Under his watch the company navigated the financial crisis, emerged stronger and more focused, and ultimately excelled across numerous growth and shareholder value metrics, including a five-fold increase in shareholder value. His role as Executive Chairman will ensure that he remains an important part of our leadership team, and we are thrilled with his continued presence as one of the Company’s largest shareholders.”