Japanese restaurant operator Benihana
The teppanyaki restaurants (78.5% of total sales this quarter) saw same-store sales increase 8.5%, thanks to a 2.5% to 3% increase in menu prices and a 4.7% increase in guest count. Dining Japanese-style is definitely catching on.
The standout was RA Sushi (9.6% of total sales), where comparable sales increased 25% on a 22.2% increase in guest traffic. Sushi dining is hot, even if the food isn't.
The news for next quarter is not as robust, although same-store sales are expected to increase a solid 4% to 5%. Analysts were expecting $0.24 a share, but the company is forecasting $0.20 to $0.22. Earnings per diluted share will be affected by the issuance of convertible preferred shares and the flood of option holders cashing in their low-priced options.
This is a small company, with only 10.3 million fully diluted shares outstanding. But with a rock-solid balance sheet, the company offers a unique product that the stock market has not yet overpriced relative to its restaurant peers.
The recent good news at Benihana has sent the stock to an all-time high. Heck, it's up 53% over the last 52 weeks, which pummels the 7.7% gain in the S&P 500. Still, the company is expected to earn $1.25 this year, and is trading at an affordable 16.0 times forward earnings -- slightly below the forward multiple garnered by Applebee's
The recent results at Benihana have been excellent. Better yet, there isn't a Japanese restaurant on every corner. When consumers want something delectably different and decidedly uncommon, Benihana is ready to provide the experience.