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Benihana to explore possible sale

Benihana Inc. said Tuesday its board of directors has approved a corporate move to explore strategic alternatives, including a possible sale.

The Miami-based company operates and franchises Japanese and sushi restaurants, including 96 restaurants nationwide, of which 63 operates as Benihana, 25 as RA Sushi and eight as Haru locations. Another 16 Benihana units are franchised in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The company most recently reported sales momentum after years of operating under a turnaround firm, CRG Partners, which came on board in January 2010. For the company’s Jan. 1-ended third quarter, Benihana reported a 7-percent increase in company-wide same-store sales, mostly driven by increased traffic at the namesake teppanyaki concept, which posted an 8.2-percent same-store sales increase.

First-quarter revenues rose 5.6 percent to $77 million. Net income dropped to $1 million, or 6 cents per share, compared with $1.9 million, or 12 cents per share, for the same year-ago quarter.

In a statement Tuesday, Richard Stockinger, Benihana chair, president and chief executive, said the board is “enthused” about strides the company has made over the past year.

“While the board remains focused on the company’s future and the goal of continuing the momentum in our business, it also believes that it is in the best interests of shareholders for the board to consider strategic alternatives at this time,” Stockinger said.

This is the second time in two years that the chain has considered pursuing a sale. In July 2010, Benihana said it would explore strategic options, and put itself on the market that fall, following shareholder battles that reportedly resulted in the removal of concept founder Rocky Aoki’s family trust among top shareholders.

The company has hired Jefferies & Co. Inc. as its financial advisor.

The company said no decision has been made to engage in any transaction.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with information regarding Benihana's previous pursuits of sale.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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