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Kona Grill names Christi Hing as interim CEO

CFO to fill role while board seeks Marcus Jundt successor

Kona Grill Inc. has named chief financial officer Christi Hing as interim CEO while it continues its search for a successor to Marcus Jundt, who resigned in March, the company reported Monday.

Hing becomes the fifth executive in nine months to serve in the top spot at the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based casual-dining brand.

Kona Grill filed the interim executive change with the Securities and Exchange Commission Monday as news outlets reported another closure, the shuttering of the company’s restaurant at Chandler Fashion Square in Chandler, Ariz. The company has three remaining restaurants in the Phoenix area.

Hing has worked with Kona Grill since 2006 and served as CFO since February 2012. Prior to joining Kona, she worked in financial reporting roles at American Express and in audit positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

The company has seen five CEOs since August, when the grill-sushi brand promoted Jim Kuhn, chief operating officer, to succeed Berke Bakay in the role. Board members Jundt and Steve Schussler were named co-CEOs in November. Schussler stepped down in January, leaving Jundt as sole CEO until he resigned March 31.

Kona on April 3 told federal regulators that its financial performance had deteriorated in the fourth quarter and it would miss its deadline for filing earnings reports for fiscal 2018.

The company warned that “revenue has decreased 12.4% and the net loss increased to approximately $32 million, primarily because of a decline in same-store sales of 12.3% since the comparable period for 2017 and $18.3 million of non-cash asset impairment charges for certain underperforming restaurants.”

In addition to the Chandler restaurant closing, Kona Grill in the past several months has shuttered restaurants in Las Vegas, Miami and Fort Worth, Texas. Jundt in January said the company was evaluating every location. The brand now has about 40 restaurants.

Kona Grill said in January said it had received a notice from the Nasdaq Stock Market that it hasn’t complied with market rules, falling below the listing standard of $15 million minimum market value, and could face being delisted.

For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, the last quarter for which the company has reported, Kona Grill’s loss widened to $5.1 million, or 39 cents a share, from $3.3 million, or 33 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Revenues fell 15.7%, to $37.4 million, from $44.4 million in the prior-year quarter. The brand’s same-store sales in the quarter fell 14.1%.

Kona Grill ranked No. 195 in U.S. systemwide sales among the chains in Nation’s Restaurant News’ most recent Top 200, booking $176.3 million for the fiscal year ended in December 2017.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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