The California-based company has nearly 200 locations in the southwestern United States and has sold more than 200 million fish tacos since co-founder Ralph Rubio fell in love with fish tacos on a college trip to Baja California, Mexico, and decided to bring them to the states in 1983.
The Florida expansion will mark the first time the Mexican fast-casual chain will make its way to the East Coast. Instead of starting from scratch, it has acquired several Lime Fresh Mexican Grill locations from Ruby Tuesday for $6.3 million. Ralph Rubio explains, “We’re incredibly excited to start transitioning the restaurants to Rubio’s Coastal Grill and look forward to opening the first location this fall."
According to the Rubio's website, the conversion will be completed by fall 2016, with eight Lime locations throughout Florida involved. Three of the six Miami-Dade locations will transform into Rubio's, including the Shops at Midtown (3201 N. Miami Ave., Miami), downtown Miami (7 W. Flagler St., Miami), and Biscayne Commons (14831 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach). Two Fort Lauderdale Limes will also transition into Rubio's, as well as one in Tampa, one in Winter Park, and one in St. Petersburg. No word yet on an exact closing date for these Lime locations as they transition into Rubio's.
Ruby Tuesday Inc. acquired the Lime chain from founder John Kunkel for $24 million in April 2012. In November 2015, it announced plans to close 11 corporate-owned Lime restaurants, sell eight locations to Rubio's Restaurants Inc., and maintain its eight franchised locations. JJ Buettgen, chairman of the board, president, and CEO of Ruby
From its original fish tacos, Rubio's has expanded its menu to burritos, bowls, and salads. The company uses sustainable seafood in nearly all of its seafood dishes and does not use artificial sweeteners, certified FD&C colors, added MSG, or partially hydrogenated oil in its foods. The company has also issued a statement that by the end of 2017, its goal is to remove artificial flavors and caramel coloring from its food and is looking into using all-natural, antibiotic-free steak and flour tortillas made with simpler ingredients.