The idea for Ruby’s Diner came in 1981 after Doug Cavanaugh returned from a long run on the beach. Cavanaugh had just moved back to his native Southern California after successfully restoring and running a restaurant on Nantucket Island. One evening, he was brainstorming new business opportunities with his father when he remembered that he had seen a dilapidated old building at the end of Balboa Pier—a sight that he frequently passed while jogging along the beach. With his father’s encouragement, Cavanaugh decided to take advantage of an opportunity that was sitting right in front of him—it was time to restore that run-down building into a vibrant and bustling restaurant.
With three employees and a simple menu of hamburgers, hot dogs and malt shakes, that old building eventually became Ruby’s Diner, and its goal was to bring back the diner-style charm of the 1940s. But beyond the big band music, the candy stripe costumes and the kitschy diner décor, customers quickly fell in love with Ruby’s for one simple reason—its dedication to serving up really good food. From griddle-style cheese burgers to malt-shop milkshakes, it’s clear that the brand’s original mission continues to fuel the restaurant’s success every single day.
Using a homemade brioche bun, the highest quality beef, real cheese, freshly sliced tomatoes and sauces made from scratch, Ruby’s boasts some of the best burgers in the industry. That same attention to detail extends to everything else on the menu, too. Ruby’s was one of the first chains in the United States to adopt trans-fat free oil. Their milkshakes are whipped up with special ice cream, Hershey’s syrup and top-quality malted milk. And all of their dressings are still made from scratch.
“The moment someone tastes our food, they have that ‘a-ha’ moment. They realize what makes Ruby’s Diner so special,” Cavanaugh said. “That type of in-house detail just isn’t there anymore for a lot of restaurants. It’s uncommon to put that much care in the food you serve. Those are our key differentiators. Our complete dedication to quality has gone a long way in making the brand noteworthy. It’s what set us apart the first day we opened our doors, and it’s what sets us apart as we’ve grown.”
But don’t be fooled by the tradition that Ruby’s Diner was built on—the brand isn’t afraid to innovate either. By approaching its menu with a consumer mindset, Ruby’s Diner has tweaked and revamped its menu to evolve alongside changing trends. For example, Ruby’s Diner was one of the very first restaurants to sell a garden burger and one of the first to boast a vegetarian menu. The restaurant also introduced turkey burgers to its menu long before people were even familiar with the healthier riff on the American classic.
Nearly 35 years later, it’s clear this combination of old-school meets new-school has worked in Ruby’s favor. Ruby’s Diner can be found throughout the country, with more than 35 restaurants across California, Nevada and Texas, including mall, casino and airport locations. Now, backed by a commitment to provide only the very best for its guests, Ruby’s is continuing its strategic growth in the Southern California market and beyond through an unparalleled franchising opportunity.
“When I talk to people, they all have a story about the time they dined at Ruby’s. Whether they love our burgers or our milkshakes, they have memories here,” Cavanaugh added. “There are now people coming into our restaurants with their families, and they’ll tell me about how they grew up eating Ruby’s. It’s an incredible thing to see—and it’s a testament to the care we put into the entire Ruby’s experience.”