Ruby Tuesday to Buy Lime Fresh Mexican Grill UPDATED

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Tennessee-based Ruby Tuesday Inc. announced Wednesday it will acquire Miami's Lime Fresh Mexican Grill for $24 million.

The deal includes Lime's intellectual property rights, as well as the assets of seven company-owned restaurants, and will offer Ruby Tuesday an opportunity for growth, particularly in Florida, says founder, chair, and chief executive Sandy Beall.

In 2010, Ruby Tuesday became the principal franchisee of Lime and currently operates four restaurants. Ruby Tuesday's third-quarter report reflected a 71 percent drop in profits. The company also plans to close up to 27 locations, hardly a dent in its 800-restaurant portfolio.

Lime's founder, John Kunkel, who will join Ruby Tuesday's board, will step down as chief executive officer but will keep ownership of the original South Beach location.

"Lime will benefit from the transaction by being able to expand more aggressively in new markets to help secure sites in the very competitive local market," Kunkel says. "Ruby Tuesday has been a great operator to work with over the last year and shares many of the principles and values that have helped to guide Lime's growth."

Lime Fresh currently owns a total of 15 restaurant locations, including franchised units, and plans to open at least 20 other locations by 2014.

The deal is scheduled to happen later this week. No jobs will be lost, only gained, Kunkel says.

Operating through 50 Eggs Restaurant Group., a Miami-based company, Kunkel opened the farm-oriented Yardbird Southern Table & Bar last year and plans to open a similar restaurant later this year called Southern Table & Bar. Kunkel also says two more limited-service concepts are in development.

The acquisition will not affect the appearance or menu of Lime, a restaurant whose reputation is built on preparing fresh, made-to-order Mexican cuisine.

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