Benihana's 4Q profit falls on charges

MIAMI Benihana Inc. reported Monday that its fourth-quarter profit was sliced in half because of one-time expenses related to the retirement of its chief executive.

For the fourth quarter ended March 29, Benihana said net income attributable to common stockholders was $913,000, or 6 cents a share, compared with profit of $2.7 million, or 17 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding $1.9 million in after-tax charges from Joel A. Schwartz's retirement in February [3], Benihana said fourth-quarter net income would have totaled $3.1 million, or 18 cents a share.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 5.3 percent, to $74 million, Benihana reported. The company operates 97 restaurants under the Benihana, Haru and RA Sushi brands.

"Despite the macro slowdown and its ongoing effect on consumer discretionary spending, our quarterly performance met expectations," said Richard C. Stockinger, Benihana's new chief executive.

Benihana said fourth-quarter same-store sales fell 10.4 percent systemwide, which included declines of 12.1 percent at Benihana, 1.2 percent at RA Sushi and 12.6 percent at Haru.

Stockinger said the company was re-evaluating its namesake teppanyaki brand and would make some changes at the concept by the end of the summer.

"Over the next several months, we will be implementing initiatives focused on reaching out to our guests in a more unique and personal way, elevating the offerings of our food and beverages, and raising the level of our service standards," he said.

For the full fiscal 2009, Benihana reported a net loss of $6.2 million, or 40 cents a share, compared with a profit of $11.7 million, or 75 cents a share, in 2008. Excluding more than $14 million in after-tax impairment charges and other expenses, Benihana said it would have earned $9.5 million, or 55 cents a share.

Revenue for the year rose 2.9 percent to $305.6 million, the company reported.

For the current fiscal 2010, Benihana said it expects restaurant sales to range between $305 million to $310 million and net income of 40 cents to 45 cents a share.

Benihana has already opened two of the four new restaurants planned for this year: a RA Sushi in Atlanta and a Benihana in Orlando, Fla. However, the company said it has terminated leases for the Benihana teppanyaki restaurants that were planned for Chicago and Westwood, Mass., the lease for the RA Sushi restaurant that was planned for Westwood.

Benihana owns and operates 65 Benihana teppanyaki restaurants, nine Haru sushi restaurants and 23 RA Sushi restaurants. It also franchises 22 Benihana locations in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected] [4].