Monday, November 14, 2005

A World Class City Deserves World Class Companies

It is inspiring to see and hear about companies who are showing faith in the New Orleans area by returning and vowing to build better and smarter than ever. Imagine what will be possible when federal and state officials unequivocally commit to building a revolutionary system of levee protection, floodgates and wetlands protection. New Orleans will be a true model for the world.

We hit a bump several weeks ago, however. The internationally known Ruth's Chris Steakhouse restaurant chain was founded in New Orleans by Ms. Ruth Fertel, who passed away a few years ago. Before her death, she sold her company, which began with a single steakhouse, to a corporation.

Mere days after Katrina struck New Orleans and our city was flooded--and while bodies were still being collected from streets and homes--the corporate overlords at Ruth's Chris announced that they were moving their corporate headquarters from the New Orleans area to Orlando, Florida. It seems that Orlando also offered tax incentives to move the headquarters. (This example of vulture-like civic activity needs further review.)

A phone conversation with an executive at Ruth's Chris new HQ in Orlando was telling. His speech was interlaced with chuckles and "sincerity" as he refused my polite request to move back to our area. He also indicated that their steakhouse on Orleans and Broad in New Orleans--which has been a real power center for politicians and corporate chieftains in the city--will not be reopened.

I will be dining on steak frequently at other establishments in the future. I encourage you to frequent other steakhouses AND let Ruth's Chris know why you are not dining there.

I snapped the above picture while passing the Orleans & Broad location of Ruth's Chris. It seems others are not happy about this decision either.

If it is difficult to read the words in the picture, I have reproduced them here:

Remember, when the bodies from Katrina were still being collected,
when we needed FAITH and HEROISM,
Ruth's Chris fled to Orlando.
Forgive them, Ms. Fertel. We won't.

Ms. Fertel's son, Randy Fertel, had this to say about this move when he spoke to a group in Oxford, Mississippi:
''My mother would never have done that,'' he said to cheers from the audience, ''and she would have reopened our original Broad Street restaurant, too.'' (NY Times, November 2, 2005).

Ruth's Chris: You still have a chance. Come back to where you belong, and be part of a dynamic resurrection. Until you do, I will be bringing my business to companies that are forward-looking. You don't qualify right now.


daneeta loretta said...

Thanks, Chris, for doing this blog. I was saddened to hear about Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, especially the one on Broad. When I graduated from Loyola in 1988, our family attorney who had been with us since I was 2 years old took my family to Ruth's Chris on Broad. It was my first visit to this New Orleans establishment. I can't believe it's gone.

I now live in London and have been away from my home town for 18 years. I go back a few times a year to visit family. They are now displaced and not sure if they are going to return being from the hardest hit in St. Bernard. In the first few weeks after the devestation, when people asked me where I was from, I said "I'm from New Orleans...I'm from Nowhere." I had lost hope.

Not only are the businesses not returning, but the people are not as well. I am so sad about this. I hope this will change. I hope that I will have a home to go home to.

Daneeta Saft

Murph said...

The Ruth's Chris move is especially disheartening when you consider the stories about how Ruth herself opened the joint and served free steaks to people during other hurricanes. Her reasoning: the power's out and this is all going to go bad, so we might as well eat it. Someone who does something like that would never move a company at a time like this.

We just have to hope that Charlie's Steakhouse on Napoleon and Dryades opens up.

Schroeder said...

Okay - so where'd you get the flag?

That was the first thing I looked for when I came back to New Orleans - but no where to be found.

Mr. Clio said...

My brother had purchased the flag from City Hall last year; they were selling them.

Not sure if the flags are for sale again. I might suspect that the folks selling the flags were among the 3,000 people Nagin had to lay off.

I'll try to give a call. If I hear back, I'll post here and on the blog.

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