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MIAMI-Benihana Inc.’s 61 restaurants finished the fourth quarter of fiscal 2002 at a gallop but net income for the full year was down compared to 2001, the locally based company reports.

Fourth-quarter net income totaled $3.7 million, up 27.2% from $2.9 million in the same period a year ago. For the full fiscal 2002, however, net totaled $8.8 million or $1.28 per diluted share versus $9.1 million or $1.38 per diluted share in 2001.

In a prepared statement, Benihana president Joel A. Schwartz attributes the decrease to a 10.7% increase in labor and related expenses “largely due to new restaurant units and to management’s decision following the tragic events on Sept. 11 to maintain Benihana standards of quality service by retaining employees.”

Gross profit margins improved to 74.9% in fiscal 2002 compared with 73.3% in fiscal 2001. But full-year restaurant operating profit totaled $27.6 million, down from $29.1 million in the previous year.

Fourth-quarter revenue of $42.9 million compared with $42.2 million, up 1.6% from 2001. The fourth quarter a year ago included an additional week, representing restaurant sales of $3.2 million, Schwartz says in his statement.

Earnings per diluted share totaled 46 cents in the fourth quarter based on eight million shares and equivalents outstanding. That performance compared with 45 cents per diluted share on 6.4 million shares and equivalents in fourth quarter 2001.

Restaurant operating profit for the quarter was $7.9 million versus $8 million a year ago.

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