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Benihana profit drops as costs rise

MIAMI Benihana Inc. blamed declining traffic and rising costs for a nearly 48-percent drop in first quarter profit, but the parent of three Japanese-style concepts said it still expected to hit its full-year earnings target.

For the quarter ended July 20, Benihana's net income was $2.2 million, or 12 cents per share, compared with year-ago income of $4.2 million, or 25 cents per share. Revenue for the latest quarter rose 5 percent, to $94.5 million, the company said.

Systemwide same-store sales fell 4.9 percent, which reflected drops at all three concepts. Same-store sales were down 3.4 percent at the namesake teppanyaki concept, 9.1 percent at RA Sushi and 7.7 percent at Haru, Benihana reported.

Benihana officials said the company would focus on improving operations, menu development and advertising in order to cut costs and drive sales. "In uncertain times, we know that the best concepts are those that stay true to what they are and never compromise on execution and service," said Joel A. Schwartz, Benihana's chairman and chief executive.

For the full fiscal 2009, Benihana maintained its earnings outlook of 60 cents to 65 cents a year. However, it cut its planned capital expenditures for the year by $13 million, in part by postponing remodeling plans for two of its restaurants.

Benihana operates 60 namesake units, 21 RA Sushi restaurants and nine Haru units. The company also franchises another 19 Benihana stores.

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