… The loyalty program is an expansion of the company’s longtime Jitterbug Club. That rewards program is designed for customers who are 55 or older. The Ruby’s loyalty program is open to guests of all ages. Rewards range from free drinks to a free order of fries.

However, some perks will be tailored to a diner’s ordering habits. Jitterbug Club members can switch to the new rewards program, or keep their Jitterbug card.

Belshe said the program is meant to reward diners who frequent the restaurants. It’s also a good way to entice new customers to give Ruby’s a try, he said.

Frequency is crucial for casual dining chains, a dining segment that has struggled the most to recover in the tough post-recession economy.

For the first quarter of the year, visits to casual dining restaurants fell by 4 percent, according to market research firm NPD Group.

Besides the rewards program, Belshe said the company is looking to improve the Ruby’s experience by expanding its tablet ordering program. The chain launched the iPad tablets at a new Downey franchise restaurant in March. The digital menus allow customers to order, split tabs, pay the bill, and search for Ruby’s promotions.

Belshe said the pilot program, which has not eliminated servers, has helped increased check averages by about 15 percent. The tablets, he said, allow diners to explore and see images of every dish and dessert.

“What we are seeing is a significant increase in the ordering of appetizers and shakes,” he said.

With check averages up, Belshe said other Ruby’s restaurants have been given the green light to install the tablets. Roughly 60 percent of the chain’s 36 restaurants are franchises. Operators will likely consider adding digital menus when they upgrade POS systems, Belshe said.

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