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Ruth Fertel

January 1, 2000

2000 – Metairie, Louisiana

There is no accolade or award for the “First Lady of American Restaurants,” but if there were, Ruth Fertel, founder of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, surely would qualify. Ruth’s Chris Steak House is the nation’s largest upscale restaurant company with more than 70 locations in the United States and Puerto Rico, and six internationally, selling more than 12,000 steaks a day and grossing more than $290 million annually. By virtue of this volume, Ruth Fertel is the country’s most successful woman restaurateur. Born in New Orleans in 1927, Ruth earned a degree in chemistry with a minor in physics at Louisiana State University and graduated at 19 years of age. She taught briefly at McNeese Junior College in Lake Charles, Louisiana, but left to marry and raise a family. Fourteen years later, and by then divorced, Ruth decided to go into business for herself; that was in 1965. One day while scanning the classified section of the local newspaper, Ruth found an ad for a steak house for sale. “I can do that!” she thought to herself, although she had no prior experience and limited funds. In short order, against the advice of her lawyer, banker and best friend, Ruth mortgaged her home to buy the small restaurant, then called Chris Steak House. Today, Ruth’s Chris Steak House appears on “best restaurants” lists nationwide, and Ruth is a sought-after industry speaker. Ruth attributes her success to hard work and following the Golden Rule. She treats customers and associates as she would want to be treated. Ruth is the recipient of numerous awards including: DiRoNa Award – Hall of Fame induction (1999), Restaurants & Institutions – Ivy Award (1998), Executive of the Year, Restaurants and Institutions (1997), the Horatio Alger Award (1995) and a Doctor of Business Administration degree conferred in Foodservice Management, Honoris Causa, by Johnson & Wales University (1994). She has been honored as a “Top 50” entrepreneur by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners. (Deceased 2002)