Morton’s steak brand profits simmer for 1999; Bertolini’s sales still slide

Morton’s steak brand profits simmer for 1999; Bertolini’s sales still slide – Brief Article

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. — Despite a $2.12 million bottom-line bite for preopening expenses, Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc. completed fiscal 1999 with profits of $8.45 million, climbing up from a previous-year loss of $1.87 million.

Revenues for the year, ended Jan. 2, were $206.87 million, with the opening of seven new Morton’s of Chicago restaurants helping to spark the 9-percent increase over fiscal 1998 revenues of $189.78 million.

During fiscal 1999 the company generated improved performance in its Morton’s of Chicago steak-house brand, while its Bertolini’s Authentic Trattoria Italian concept experienced continued deterioration. During the year Morton’s shuttered four lagging Bertolini’s sites.

The recently opened Morton’s s in Hong Kong, according to the company, began generating the highest check averages in the concept, at $100 per person, about $30 above the U.S. average for the chain’s 50 restaurants.

The same-store sales rise of 6.1 percent for the high-end steak-house chain in the fourth quarter and 3.9 percent in the 12-month period, ended Jan. 2, gave the brand its 14th consecutive year of increases in the comp-sales barometer.

Bertolini’s, on the other hand, found same-store sales off 1.9 percent for the quarter and 4.6 percent for the year.

The closing of four underperforming Bertolini’s “would favorably impact future operations,” said Morton’s chairman, president and chief executive Allen J. Bernstein.

In fiscal 1998 Morton’s recorded a pretax charge of $19.25 million for the write-down of closed and impaired Bertolini’s restaurant assets and lease-exit costs as well as the write-off of residual ownership interests in its former Mick’s and Peasant brands. Among the closed Bertolini’s were one in Westbury, N.Y., and another in Costa Mesa, Calif.

The charges resulted in Morton’s fiscal 1998 losses of $1.87 million for the year and $7.72 million in the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 1999, the company posted profits of $4.33 million.

On a per-share basis the company reported earnings of $1.39 per diluted share for fiscal 1999 vs. a net loss of 28 cents per diluted share in 1998. Fourth-quarter income per diluted share was 76 cents for 1999 compared with a loss of $1.17 per share for 1998.

At year-end there were 50 Morton’s of Chicago steak-house restaurants and eight Bertolini’s in 49 states and in Canada, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Bernstein said Morton’s expects to open steak houses in Denver; Hartford, Conn.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Great Neck, N.Y.; and Vancouver, Canada.

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