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Benihana's 4Q profit up on increased sales

Benihana Inc. credited a “renewal program” at its flagship teppanyaki concept and the improving economy as it posted a 57.6-percent jump in fourth-quarter profit and recorded its first positive same-store sales in nearly two years.

Benihani, which also operates the RA Sushi and Haru concepts, on Friday reported net income for the March 28-ended quarter was $1.4 million, or 9 cents a share, compared with net income of $913,000, or 6 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Total revenue, including franchise fees and royalties, rose 5.2 percent to $77.8 million in the latest fourth quarter. Systemwide same-store sales rose 1.4 percent, which reflected same-store sales increases of 1 percent at Benihana, 2.1 percent at RA Sushi and 2.4 percent at Haru.

It was the first time all three brands posted quarterly same-store sales increase since the second quarter of 2008, the company said.

“We attribute our recent performance in part to improved economic conditions and, the measurable success we have experienced to date with our Renewal Program,” said Richard C. Stockinger, Benihana’s chief executive.

Benihana said new marketing initiatives tied to the renewal program included value-based promotions through its Chef’s Table program, which includes a database of a million customer e-mail addresses, and the Kabuki Kids effort with 100,000 participants. Kids are an important Benihana market, Stockinger said, “as children are often the prime drivers in bringing families to Benihana.”

For the full fiscal year, Benihana recorded a net loss of $10 million, or 65 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $6.2 million, or 40 cents a share. Excluding impairment charges, net income for the year was $4.6 million, compared with $11.6 million last year.

Total revenue rose 2.6 percent, to $313.5 million in fiscal 2010, compared with year-ago revenue of $305.6 million. Companywide same-store sales declined 5.8 percent for the year, rising 2.6 percent at RA Sushi but falling 7.9 percent at Benihana and 8.3 percent at Haru.

In the fourth quarter, the company opened one new Benihana in Orlando, Fla., and three new RA Sushi units in Atlanta, Houston and Leawood, Kan. The company closed Benihana units in Tucson, Ariz., and Washington, D.C.

Benihana Inc. owns and operates 97 restaurants nationwide, including 63 Benihana teppanyaki restaurants, nine Haru sushi restaurants and 25 RA Sushi Bar restaurants. The company also franchises 22 Benihana units in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].


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