12 Follow Sizzle Out the Door

Duke Creative Marketing Solutions has laid off nearly half its staff following the loss of its Ruth’s Chris SteakHouse account

The New Orleans shop cut its workforce from 26 to 14, including creative director Rick Horney.

“We’re getting lean and mean to aggressively pursue new business,” said agency founder Lana Duke. “We spent 25 years devoting a great deal ofenergy to Ruth’s Chris. Now we’re repositioning.”

In 1975, Duke helped restaurant founder Ruth Fertel develop a brand image for her two eateries that served steak in the traditional New Orleans style, sizzling inbutter. By 1999, the $250 million operation was one of the nation’s largest upscale restaurant chains with 68 locations.

In July 1999, Fertel sold a majority interest to Madison Dearborn Partners, an equity investor in Chicago. A new marketing manager called a review for the $7-10 million account, which Duke lost to Earle Palmer Brown. Also last year, Duke relinquished the $1 million account of Singer Kitchens to Keating Magee here.

Duke has recouped most of those losses with the $10 million account win of Marie Callender’s Restaurants of Orange, Calif.