HEATHROW, FL-The Ruth’s Chris Steak House chain plans about six new company-owned locations and six to eight franchise restaurants in 2007, the company said Monday in reporting quarterly sales that increased 27% to $78.1 million for the first quarter ended April 1. The chain commented that “Despite caution surrounding higher beef prices and consumer trends,” it expects to open approximately six to seven company-owned and six to eight franchised locations in 2007, of which two company-owned and three franchised locations have opened so far.

The increase to $78.1 million in the latest quarterly sales, which compared with $61.5 million for the first quarter of 2006, “was driven by comparable restaurant sales and 10 additional restaurants in operation during the period” this year, the company reported. During the first quarter, the company opened locations in Lake Mary and Naples, FL, while franchise partners opened locations in Aspen, CO; Charlotte, NC and Oahu, HI.

For the first quarter of 2007, company-owned comparable restaurant sales increased 1.9%, marking the 16th consecutive quarter of comparable sales growth. The sales growth occurred despite winter storms in the Northeast and Midwest.

Ruth’s Chris believes that despite “caution surrounding higher beef prices and consumer trends,” the company estimates that comparable restaurant sales will increase approximately 3% to 4%. The 42-year-old chain operates 105 locations worldwide.

According to its most recent annual report, the company believes that the 50 most populous markets in the US could support an additional 75 to 100 company-owned and franchisee-owned Ruth’s Chris restaurants. There is also potential for an additional 25 to 50 Ruth’s Chris restaurants in smaller markets in the US, it believes.

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