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Benihana reports dip in 4th-Q systemwide comps

MIAMI Citing a challenging economic environment, Benihana Inc. said Thursday that its fourth-quarter systemwide same-store sales declined 2.2 percent from a year ago and that total restaurant sales fell 2 percent to $69.8 million.

Benihana blamed the year-to-year drop in total sales on an additional operating week in the year-ago, 13-week quarter, which resulted in an additional $5.5 million in sales. Excluding that week, Benihana’s sales for the 12-week quarter ended March 30 would have increased 6.2 percent year-to-year.

Latest-quarter same-store sales fell 0.6 percent at Benihana’s flagship teppanyaki chain, 8.4 percent at its RA Sushi brand, and 2.9 percent at the company’s Haru concept.

The company, which operates or franchises a total of 102 restaurants, said total restaurant sales for the 52-week year ended March 30 increased 8.9 percent from the year earlier to $295.2 million. The year earlier included 53 weeks. Excluding that extra week, Benihana’s total annual restaurant sales would have increased 11.1 percent. On a comparable 52-week basis, systemwide same-store sales increased 2.4 percent, which reflected a 2.9-percent gain at Benihana teppanyaki, a 1-percent drop at RA Sushi and a 3.6-percent jump at Haru.

Despite the annual top line growth, Benihana said the difficult cost environment would keep the company from realizing additional profit gains.

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