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MIAMI-Any way you slice it, Benihana Inc.’s financial performance has caught the eyes and wallets of investors. The chain, which operates Japanese steak and sushi restaurants, posted 9% growth in its same-store sales for its first quarter, vaulting the stock price to its 52-week high of $17.74.

Equally impressive were the chains total sales, whichincreased 13.5% to $73.7 million, compared with thesame period last year. The chain’s largest sushiconcept, RA Sushi, saw same-store sales increase 25%,while total sales increased 43.6% to $7 million. AtHaru, the company’s urban sushi concept, same-storesales grew half a percent, and total sales for thechain increased 16% to $8.2 million. Sales at Doraku,a one-restaurant concept that offers 20 varieties ofsake, popped 23.3% to $600,000 for the quarter.

And, it’s not just new concepts that are drivingBenihana’s sales, either. Its core concept, theteppanyaki Benihana restaurants–where chefs wieldlarge knives to slice and dice meals right at thetable–-generated a same-store sales increase of 8.5%. According to the chain, the increase can be attributed to a 2.5% to 3% price increase and increased customer traffic. Total sales of the teppanyaki restaurants for the period increased 10.2%, compared to the same period last year, to $57.8 million.

The strong sales performance compelled Benihanamanagement to indicate that its quarterly income couldexceed its 28 cents to 30 cents per share guidance.Last year, the chain brought in 20 cents a share forits first quarter.

At the end of the first quarter, Benihana operated 72 restaurants including 56 teppanyaki Benihana restaurants, seven Haru sushi restaurants, eight RA Sushi Bar Restaurants and one Doraku restaurant.

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