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Benihana's 1Q sales up on increased traffic

Benihana Inc. cited increased traffic as a result of renewal efforts at its flagship brand for an increase in total restaurant sales for the first quarter.

The company said restaurant sales increased 5 percent to $100.2 million for the July 18-ended quarter on a 2.4-percent jump in systemwide same-store sales

By brand, Benihana’s same-store sales were up 3.3 percent for the quarter; sushi concept Haru’s same-store sales were up 2.4 percent, and sales were essentially flat for RA Sushi, the company said.

Richard Stockinger, Benihana chief executive and president, said the renewal program at the 85-unit Benihana chain, which includes a new menu and wine program, resulted in a 3.4-percent increase in traffic, though the average check declined slightly.

Last month, Benihana said it was exploring a possible sale or other strategic alternatives as a result of investor discontent. A battle for board seats is anticipated at the company’s annual board meeting scheduled for September.

During the latest quarter, the company said it paid down $4.7 million in debt during the quarter, reducing its outstanding credit line to $17.7 million. Benihana also said it deposited $3.8 million in an escrow account related to litigation tied to the acquisition of the Haru brand in 1999.

Miami-based Benihana Inc. operates 63 Benihana units in the United States, as well as nine Haru sushi restaurants, and 25 RA Sushi Bar locations. Another 22 Benihana restaurants are franchised in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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