(March 6) Ruby Tuesday has added fresh avocados and strawberries to its menu in a branding effort to differentiate it from competing bar-and-grill chains.

“With our whole new simple fresh American dining, we are doing fresh hamburger meat, which was previously frozen, fresh grilled chicken breasts — so the move is for freshness and avocados speak to that,” said Julie Reid, vice president of culinary development for the Marysville, Tenn.-based restaurant chain. “They’re a little bit harder to handle, but on a grilled chicken breast sandwich or on a turkey burger or a salad they speak volumes in terms of freshness.”

The items were added to the September menu because consumers understand and appreciate freshness and quality, particularly quality over quantity.

Mark Affleck, president and chief executive officer for the California Avocado Commission, Irvine, said Ruby Tuesday’s decision to add avocados to its menu is the kind of promotion that can take an item to a whole different level.

“When a chain like Ruby Tuesday makes this kind of commitment, it demonstrates that they have faith in the category and our product,” he said. “Obviously we’re excited about the sales that will come, but we’re also excited at the exposure that it gives the product because when other chains see a chain of this stature making this kind of commitment it has to have a positive effect on other menus in the foodservice arena.”

Ruby Tuesday has nearly 900 units, with locations in most states. The chain has long been known for its salad bar. Its current marketing tag line, “Simple Fresh American Dining,” was adopted in July.