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Mixed bag for casual chains in 4Q

BJ’s has strong sales while CPK and Cheesecake Factory suffer from weather

Fourth-quarter results for three large casual-dining chains showcased two separate tales — one of continued sales momentum for a mainly Southern California-based chain, and one of tough winter weather that hurt results of two national brands.

Despite the varying results, BJ’s Restaurants Inc., California Pizza Kitchen Inc., and The Cheesecake Factory Inc. each underscored improved sales results driven by stronger customer traffic, even as actual same-store sales results at CPK and The Cheesecake Factory were negative and about flat, respectively. Both chains blamed those results partially on winter weather. On the flip side, BJ’s recorded its fourth consecutive quarter of positive same-store sales, up 5.9 percent for the fourth quarter.

“With the increase in frequency and severity of winter storms this year throughout much of the country, mother nature is seemingly taking a bite out of restaurant sales,” Morgan Keegan restaurant securities analyst Bob Derrington said in a report this week. “While weather happens every year and we typically attempt to discount the impact, we believe it could somewhat distort the actual underlying trends in what had appeared as a modestly improving sales environment.”

EARLIER: Winter weary restaurants could lose sales, profit

Results from select reports on Thursday:

BJ’s Restaurants: Net income totaled $6.9 million, or 24 cents per share, for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 28, compared with profit of $1.7 million, or 6 cents per share, in the same quarter a year earlier. In the 2010 fourth quarter, BJ’s benefited by about 2 cents per share from a favorable tax rate adjustment. In the 2009 fourth quarter, the company booked an after-tax charge of about $1.6 million, or 6 cents per share, related to a loss surrounding the disposition of auction rate securities. Latest-quarter revenue increased 18 percent to $132.9 million. Same-store sales rose 5.9 percent.

California Pizza Kitchen: Fourth-quarter net income swung to $440,000, or 2 cents per share, from a loss of $9.9 million, or 41 cents per share, in the same quarter a year earlier, which included a $22.9 million loss on impairment charges. Latest-quarter revenue totaled $157.9 million for the 13-week quarter, a drop of 5.9 percent from the year-ago 14-week quarter. Excluding that additional week, total fourth-quarter revenue increased 3.2 percent, the company reported. Same-store sales at all full-service restaurants fell 1.1 percent, and included a 1.4-percent negative impact from the winter weather, CPK said.

The Cheesecake Factory: Fourth-quarter results included a profit of $21.9 million, or 36 cents per share, compared with a loss of $13,000, or zero cents per share, a year earlier. The 2009 fourth quarter included more than $26 million in impairment charges. Latest-quarter revenue rose 4 percent to $416.7 million. Same-store sales increased 1 percent at The Cheesecake Factory restaurants and fell 0.4 percent at Grand Lux Café.

Contact Sarah Lockyer at [email protected].

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