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MARYVILLE, TN-The Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain opened 17 new locations and bought 17 from its Orlando, FL franchisee during the latest quarter, company officials reported Wednesday in a conference call to discuss quarterly financial results. The chain, which operates more than 900 company-owned and franchise units, plans to open 45 to 50 new company locations this year and expects franchisees to open 30 to 35 new units.

Sandy Beall, Ruby Tuesday’s chairman and CEO, commented during the conference call that the chain plans to “grow our company-owned unit expansion by 6% to 8% per year,” along with other goals that include pushing annual unit volume to $2.5 million per location. “We continue to be cautious on our short-term goals until we can see a sustained increase in consumer trends,” said Beall, who earlier in the call had described consumer behavior thus far this year as “unpredictable.”

In addition to its openings, the chain closed two restaurants during the quarter and sold or leased three units to an existing franchisee. On addition to the stores opened by the company, franchisees opened 10 new locations during the quarter and sold one.

Ruby Tuesday’s first fiscal quarter for the 2007 fiscal year ended Sept. 5. For the period, Beall said the company was pleased with results, “especially considering the macro environment” in which retailers are operating.

The company reported diluted earnings per share of 37 cents for the quarter on net income of $21.6 million, an 8.8% increase as compared to diluted earnings per share of 34 cents on the same amount of net income in the first quarter of fiscal 2006.

Same-restaurant sales for the first quarter decreased a half a percentage point at company-owned restaurants and rose 1.4% at domestic franchise Ruby Tuesday units in the quarter. Total sales increased to $338 million from the $308 million total in the same period last year.

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