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ORLANDO-Minneapolis-based Buca Inc., a nine-year-old, 89-unit Italian-themed restaurant chain, has named Joe McCullough general manager of its 300-seat, 9,000-sf Buca di Beppo restaurant scheduled to open Sept. 5 at the expanded 1.6-million-sf Florida Mall in south Orlando, Central Florida’s largest shopping center and third largest in the state.

Before moving to Orlando, McCullough ran Outback Steakhouse restaurants in South Florida and Ohio. He will have an equity position with Buca Inc. whose long-range growth plans are a total 500 Buca di Beppo and Vinny Testa-brand restaurants. Loosely translated, buca di beppo is Joe’s basement, the company says in its literature.

The Florida Mall site at 8001 S. Orange Blossom Trail will be Buca Inc.’s eighth and largest restaurant in Florida. Other locations are in suburban Maitland, Tampa, Naples, Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, Davie and Brandon. The company’s eight Vinny Testa restaurants are in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Although Buca Inc. posted a profit of $4.9 million on sales of $117 million for the six-months ended June 30, company chairman/CEO Joseph P. Micatrotto says in a prepared statement third-quarter sales are expected to be negative and fourth-quarter sales may be flat.

Six-month sales in 2001 were $4.1 million on revenue of $83 million. Earnings per share for the fourth quarter of this year, however, are expected to be 21 cents fully diluted, Micatrotto says. For the year, the company anticipates earnings per share of 63 cents fully diluted, a 25% increase versus 2001.

Buca Inc. will be receiving a new credit facility for a maximum $60 million from FleetBoston Financial, assuring the company’s growth through 2004, Micatrotto says.

The firm’s 16.56 million shares were trading at noon today on the Nasdaq at $8.54 per share, down 20 cents from $8.74 on Aug. 23. The company’s 52-week high-low is $20.20 and $5.60 per share.

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