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Lower prime beef prices in 2018 gives Ruth’s Chris a boost Courtesy of Ruth's Chris

Lower prime beef prices in 2018 gives Ruth’s Chris a boost

Steakhouse chain reports ninth consecutive year of same-store sales growth

Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. closed the year with strong revenues, which grew 9% to $452.3 million, the company reported Friday.

For the year ended Dec. 30, same-store sales at company-owned locations increased 1.4%, which was driven by an average check increase of 1.7 %.

And though traffic for the year was down 0.3%, net income in 2018 was $41.7 million, or $1.38 per share, up from $30.1 million, or 97 cents per share in 2017.

“It marked a fitting end to another year of strong results for our team,” said CEO Cheryl Henry.

It was the ninth consecutive year of comparable restaurant sales growth for the Winter Park, Fla.-based fine-dining steakhouse chain.

Chief financial officer Arne Haak said consumers are spending more on “special occasion” days.

For the fourth quarter, Ruth’s posted a 1.1% increase in same-store sales at franchise locations.

Company same-store sales were down 0.1% for the quarter, a downturn primarily driven by the calendar year loss of New Year’s Eve. Traffic declined 2.5% for the quarter, but the average check climbed 2.5%.

Adjusting for the New Year’s Eve loss, same-store sales at company stores would have increased 1.4 %, the company said.

Sales for the quarter at Ruth’s Chris restaurants increased 2.3% to $120 million, compared to $117.4 million for the same quarter last year. The increase was primarily driven by the company’s acquisition of a restaurant in Hawaii.

Net income for the quarter was $14.9 million, or 49 cents per share, compared to net income of $9.6 million, or 31 cents per share for the same quarter last year. The gain in 2018 was primarily due to a one-time $3.9 million charge in fourth quarter of 2017.

Beef deflation of 8% in 2018 also contributed to the bottom line.

While “operational excellence remains the cornerstone of the brand,” Henry said the company will pursue innovative changes this year to evolve the chain and better connect with customers. She said the company is looking at “potential opportunities” to reduce “friction for the guest” and improve productivity within restaurants.

She did not provide any more specifics.

Of the 153 restaurants open at the end of the quarter, 75 are franchise locations.

In 2019, the company expects to open three company restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, Washington D.C. and Somerville, Mass. A fourth store is slated to open in Oklahoma City in 2020.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

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