Benihana profits up 35.6% as same-store sales grow

Benihana profits up 35.6% as same-store sales grow

MIAMI — With customer counts and comparable sales on the rise, Benihana Inc. reported a new high in quarterly profits, up 35.6 percent in the second quarter, to $1.14 million, from $841,000 in the same year-ago period. Sales increased 10.5 percent to $21.19 million, from $19.18 million.

For the six-month period ended Oct. 12, profits grew 29.7 percent, to $2.78 million, from $2.14 million in the year-earlier period. Sales were up 8.9 percent, to $48.78 million, from $44.78 million.

Earnings per share were 18 cents for the second quarter and 44 cents for the six months vs. year-earlier results respectively of 13 cents and 34 cents.

Despite a tepanyaki concept that began its growth in the U.S. market more than 30 years ago Benihana still “is positioned to achieve further increases in top-line growth both in existing restaurants and new ones,” said Benihana president Joel Schwartz.

Schwartz said the company has a new concept called “Sushi Doraku” under development in the Las Olas section of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Scheduled for completion “early next year,” he said, the concept could be the start of “a new line of sushi restaurants.”

He said a new Benihana is scheduled for opening in Ontario Calif., in the spring of 1998.

The company owns and licenses 51 teppenyaki-style Japanese restaurants throughout the country. This year in Texas Benihana began expansion of its one-unit Benihana Grill concept, a smaller version of its standard 8,000-square-foot restaurants. It opened its second and third Grill units in the suburbs of Houston and Dallas.

Benihana also entered into an agreement to acquire, for $20 million, the Rudy’s Restaurant Group which owns nine units operating under the Samurai and Kyoto names.

“The company seems to be benefiting from the trend toward eatertainment with its tepanyaki-style cooking in which a Benihana chef displays his cutlery skills on a grill that forms part of a table on which the food is served,” said Jefferies & Co. analyst David L. Rose.

Rose said Benihana “is the only national player” in casual dining’s Asian segment that offers “the greatest opportunity for growth.” He said there are more than 26,000 “primarily family-owned” restaurants in the $8 billion market segment.

Rose pointed to the company’s “consistency in performance” with same-store-sales increases that ran between 6.5 percent and 7 percent in each of the last three years.

Driving the comparisons, he said, are refurbishment of some restaurants, the addition of sushi bars and “growing customer satisfaction.”

Benihana said customer counts increased 9 percent for the second quarter and 11.5 percent for the half. Same-store sales were up 7.9 percent for the quarter and 8.4 percent for the six months.

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