The Secret Recipe of an Iconic Family Business
Photo by Catie Viox
If you think it’s the steaks that make Jeff Ruby’s restaurants so successful, guess again.
It’s actually a combination of family, relationships, values, community giveback and hometown pride. These are the secret ingredients that make every restaurant in the Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment group so successful. They are also the words that filled the air, spoken with humility, over and over again, talking with Jeff Ruby’s three children – Britney, Brandon and Dillon – who are now at the helm of JRCE. Established 36 years ago, Ruby’s first high-end steak house, The Precinct, was the beginning of a business that now includes Carlo & Johnny and three Jeff Ruby Steakhouses located Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville, with a Columbus location scheduled to open in October of this year.
The restaurant legacy is now a family heritage that Jeff Ruby’s children are leading. The past that Jeff so solidly built has become the present for his kids. Their well-choreographed harmony and efficiency will shape the future Ruby legacy.
Starting at 15, the Ruby kids began to learn the family business. Whether as a hostess or valet, Britney, Brandon and Dillon learned the importance of earning their way and gaining the respect of fellow employees. “We’ve definitely worked our way up to running the company,” says Brandon. “It’s been a journey and we all started at the bottom working for my dad through high school and college at hourly positions. Once we finished our schooling, we started to take on more responsibilities in management, and now we hold executive roles.”
Cincinnati has a special place in the hearts of all the Rubys and they proudly show it. Most long-time Cincinnatians know that Jeff, his family and his restaurants give back to this community. “We feel strongly that each of our restaurants support the community it’s in, and in turn that community never fails to support us,” says Britney.
The Rubys don’t view other dining hot spots as competition, but more of a brotherhood of restaurants that band together and show up for one another. “I think we as a restaurant community realize that all boats rise with the tide, and in order for us to be able to run successful restaurants, the community has to be thriving,” says Britney. And that’s where it comes full circle. The Rubys take care of their community, the people in their community, and in return, the community shows up for the Rubys.
Food, obviously, is paramount at any high-end restaurant, and that rings true at all of the Jeff Ruby establishments. From the USDA prime beef, to the imported meats and cheeses, to the way each ingredient is expertly and thoughtfully prepared, Jeff Ruby’s chefs and staff know what they’re doing and they do it well. However there is an unsung yet monumental component that drives the Rubys and their staff – caring.
“That’s what makes me most proud of our family business, the way we take care of people. When I see our restaurants full of people celebrating important life moments and see our happy employees, I know we are living out our mission,” says Britney.
“I agree,” says Dillon. “It’s all about caring for our employees and caring for our guests. Sure, the food we put on the table is important, but so is the way we connect with the people who walk through our doors. Whether employee or guest, we treat them exceptionally well.” And because of that, diners keep coming back, employees have longevity and everyone ends up feeling like family.
Jeff Ruby restaurants exist to provide an experience. Britney, Brandon and Dillon consider it an honor to share in some of the most memorable moments of their guests’ lives. “You know, we call it the Jeff Ruby Experience, but what we do is more than that phrase. You can’t really put a name on it,” says Brandon. “It includes paying attention to lots of little details, providing the utmost, highest level of customer service and delivering the highest quality products. We don’t cut corners, and that sets us apart.”
“We see hundreds of thousands of guests every year and we try to emotionally connect with every one of them,” says Britney. “Our goal is to treat people to an experience they’ve never before received. When they walk in, we are going to blow them away and make them feel special. We aren’t doing the important work that teachers or doctors or nurses do, but we have a platform to really make people happy while they’re here.”
“My favorite part of my job is going around talking to our guests, building relationships and turning those relationships into friendships,” says Dillon. “It’s so much more than just asking how their dinner was. I sincerely want to know what brought them in, where they’re from.”
Jeff still plays a role in the business he built, whether it’s stopping in at one of the restaurants or helping out with advice. “My father put us in a really good position to succeed,” says Britney. “Of course I feel some pressure, but it’s pressure I put on myself to strive and make sure our business is as good as it was when he was running it, and making sure that nothing slips from the Jeff Ruby experience.”
All three siblings agree that some pressure is good as it helps them work to maintain the excellence their father has demanded since 1981. “I think pressure and challenges are good,” says Dillon. “They push me to be better and not be complacent. There’s a lot of pressure on all of us when we go into work because we want to be the first ones in and the last ones out. It can create stress at times, but at the end of the day I go home knowing I did my job well.”
Working closely with your siblings is not for everyone. But this tight-knit family does it with intention, purpose and love. “That’s the best part; working together and having people you can trust, people that you love,” says Brandon.
The Rubys work together, have regular family dinners together and even vacation together, grandkids and all, once a year. “Because my brothers and I already have the same buy-in: to have the best company and the best restaurants, we all pull for the same things. Our time spent together keeps us united and our relationships with each other are more fruitful,” says Britney.
Dillon, the youngest sibling who is the general manager of Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Nashville, echoes that sentiment. “We all have the same goal: to be successful, to give great service, to be involved in the community and to put good food on the table. We get to make decisions as a team and we all support each other. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Britney, Brandon and Dillon are primed to not simply maintain the Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment legacy, but to redefine it and craft a legacy of their own. Each one of them is wise beyond their years and outwardly carries the torch, a fiery passion to serve and connect. That passion is evident in every visit; it’s a culture of caring 36 years in the making.
Go see for yourself. Visit one of Jeff Ruby’s steakhouses for a memorable meal and experience their warm hospitality. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a doggy bag in your hand and a warm feeling in your heart.
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse – Cincinnati is located at 700 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202. You can reach them at 513.784.1200.
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse – Louisville is located at 325 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202. You can reach them at 502.584.0102.
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse – Nashville is located at 300 Fourth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37219. You can reach them at 615.434.4300.
Carlo & Johnny is located at 9769 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, OH 45242. You can reach them at 513.936.8600.
The Precinct is located at 311 Delta Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45226. You can reach them at 513.321.5454.
For more information about Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, visit www.jeffruby.com.