Chuck E. Cheese sales hit by swine flu

IRVING Texas CEC Entertainment Inc., parent to the 542-unit Chuck E. Cheese’s chain, said Friday that the effects of and fears surrounding the H1N1 flu, or swine flu, could lead to a 20-percent drop in same-store sales for the first three days of the current week.

In a conference call on Friday to discuss the company’s first-quarter results, which included a 4-percent gain in profit and a 1.2-percent revenue increase, the company said same-store sales fell 8 percent during the fourth week of April, and are down 20 percent during the first three days of the current week, which began Sunday. While it is impossible to draw conclusions from a three-day period, the company said, its sales through May could be affected.

The company said it had stepped up sanitation programs at all its units, including the games, rides, tables and chairs. The company said it had not seen significant birthday party cancellations, but that “media surrounding swine flu” led to the chain’s sales drop.

Christopher Morris, CEC’s chief financial officer, said: “We hope it’s a short-term negative impact and remain encouraged over longer term.”

For the company’s first quarter ended March 29, net income rose to $34.1 million, or $1.48 per share, from $32.9 million, or $1.24 per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Latest-quarter revenue rose 1.2 percent to $248.1 million, aided by five corporate restaurant openings and three more franchised units that a year ago. Quarterly same-store sales dipped 0.1 percent.

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