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Benihana Inc. earnings positive for the year, slip in 4Q

While Benihana Inc. executives said earnings for the Japanese-themed restaurant company moved into positive territory for the year, net income slipped in the fourth quarter.

For the fourth quarter ended March 27, net income declined to $500,0000, or two cents per share, compared with earnings of $1.7 million, or nine cents per share, for the same period last year.

The Miami-based company attributed the decrease chiefly to higher stock-based compensation, which contributed to a hike in general and administrative expenses.

Company-wide comparable restaurant sales in the quarter rose by 5.6 percent, led by the flagship Benihana teppanyaki concept, which saw 7.6-percent comp-sales growth.

Total revenues for the 12-week period rose 5.2 percent to $81.4 million from $77.4 million a year ago.

For fiscal year 2011, net income rose to $1.3 million compared with a net loss of $8.9 million, reflecting an increase of $9.7 million.

Earnings per share were two cents for the fiscal year compared with a loss of 65 cents per share for the prior year.

Companywide comparable-restaurant sales for the year increased 4.2 percent, led by Benihana teppanyaki, which grew 6.3 percent.

Total revenues for the year rose 4.5 percent, or $14.1 million, to $327.6 million, marking Benihana’s 19th consecutive year of total revenue growth, the company said.

“We are very proud of Benihana's dramatic turnaround,” said Richard C. Stockinger, Benihana chairman, president and chief executive. “Company-wide, unit level performance significantly improved from a year ago, and we generated a large, positive swing in net income despite major non-recurring expenses.”

Stockinger cited the company’s Renewal Program for contributing to the comparable-restaurant growth at its teppanyaki restaurants. He also said Benihana is “building on our traffic growth through continued marketing and promotional efforts to drive brand awareness. The Chef’s Table program…now has approximately 1.8 million members.”

For the fourth quarter, the cost of food and beverage sales was $20.1 million, or 24.7 percent of restaurant sales, compared with $18.8 million, or 24.3 percent of restaurant sales for the same period last year. The increase in cost as a percentage of sales was primarily due to rising commodity costs, the company said.

Benihana said it improved labor management, so restaurant operating expenses for the fourth quarter of 2011 were $50.3 million — or 61.8 percent of sales — compared with $48.6 million, or 62.8 percent of sales, for the same period last year.

The company operates 96 restaurants nationwide, including 63 Benihana restaurants, eight Haru sushi restaurants, and 25 RA Sushi restaurants. In addition, 20 franchised Benihana restaurants are operating in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact Alan Snel at [email protected].

Follow him on Twitter: @Alansnelnrn

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