Benihana: Sales trends set to improve

MIAMI Benihana Inc., parent to three Japanese-themed restaurant chains, reported Tuesday a continued slide in same-store sales for its March-ended fourth quarter, but said traffic may be primed to improve in the months ahead.

For the quarter ended March 29, systemwide same-store sales fell 10.4 percent, with drops of 12.2 percent at Benihana, 1.2 percent at RA Sushi and 12.6 percent at Haru.

Richard C. Stockinger, Benihana’s chief executive, remained positive that the worst was behind the company.

“While it would be premature to suggest that a full economic recovery is imminent,” he said, “we believe that overall guest counts are beginning to stabilize, and are more hopeful that trends could improve from these levels as we move into fiscal year 2010.”

The company said total restaurant sales rose 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter to $73.6 million, compared with $69.8 million in the same quarter last year. The latest quarter had 160 more operating weeks than last year, the company noted. Also during the quarter, the company opened two new Benihana teppanyaki locations, one in Coral Springs, Fla., and another in Columbus, Ohio. It also reopened a unit, which had been destroyed earlier by fire, in Memphis, Tenn. A franchisee opened a Benihana unit in Chile.

For the full year, sales increased 2.9 percent to $303.9 million. Annual systemwide same-store sales fell 8 percent, and reflected a 7.7-percent drop at Benihana, a 7.5-percent decrease at RA Sushi and a 10.6-percent decline at Haru.

Benihana will release its full earnings in June. No specific date has been scheduled.

During the current first quarter of the company’s fiscal 2010, the company plans to open three RA Sushi restaurants in Atlanta, Houston and Leawood, Kan., and a Benihana in Orlando, Fla.

Benihana owns 95 restaurants in the United States, including 64 teppanyaki restaurants, nine Haru sushi restaurants and 22 RA Sushi Bars. The company has 21 franchised units in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected] [3].