Ark's Covenant Is Dividends

Ark Restaurants (Nasdaq: ARKR  ) is staying afloat amid a flood of huge restaurant chains and hot growth concepts.

The company's steady formula hasn't produced much growth in recent years, but the company has still been able to reward shareholders. In the past year, the stock has risen more than 40%, and the most recent quarterly results are encouraging. Management reported improvements in the most meaningful metrics, including revenue, earnings per share, operating cash flow, and same-store sales.

Year over year, quarterly revenue grew 16% to $36 million, driven by an increase in same-store sales in all geographies -- 13.5% in New York, 11% in Washington, D.C., 8.2% in Las Vegas, and 44.6% in Atlantic City. Management noted that its Atlantic City operations just started, and that the extreme growth recorded there is not sustainable.

Despite rising food costs, earnings per share grew 29% to $0.98 per share, and the company did manage to convert a significant amount of its income to cash. Year-to-date operating cash flow increased 18% to $8.8 million, and management is giving cash back to shareholders in the form of dividends.

In December, the company paid a special $3-per-share dividend. In May, Ark increased its already-hefty $0.35 quarterly dividend to $0.44 per share. Based on today's share price, that's a very respectable 4.8% yield. The only other dining chain with a larger dividend is Star Buffet (Nasdaq: STRZ), with 7.5%. 

Management also has a smart strategy for the notoriously fickle restaurant business: It's extremely selective about the location of its restaurants, preferring highly populated locations such as casinos, train stations, and parks. These bustling locations help guarantee the company steady business -- while ensuring shareholders that Ark will also continue to pay dividends.

Further Foolishness, two by two:

Fool contributor Brendan Mathews does not own stock in any company mentioned in this article. He is ranked 2,070 out of more than 60,000 total participants in Motley Fool CAPS. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.

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