Mitchell’s Fish Market stabilizes

Preliminary same-restaurant sales at Mitchell’s Fish Market fell 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, compared to the fourth quarter of 2008, Ruth’s Hospitality Group reported on Monday.

The upscale seafood chain, which operates 15 restaurants in the Midwest, three in Florida and one in Connecticut, posted a 12.3 percent drop in same-restaurant sales in the third quarter.

The company’s parent, Ruth’s Hospitality Group, also on Monday reported an 11.2 percent same-restaurant sales drop for Ruth’s Chris Steak House and a 10.5 percent drop in total sales, to USD 83.7 million (EUR 57.9 million), in the fourth quarter of 2009.

“We believe our preliminary sales results for the fourth quarter suggest that the sales environment at our restaurants has stabilized,” said Mike O’Donnell, president and CEO of Ruth’s Hospitality Group.

“While absolute sales volumes have declined from 2008, our unit level cash flow and return on capital continue to be very solid given cost initiatives that have become a permanent part of our model,” he explained. “In terms of the specific guidance metrics we’ve referenced throughout the year, we expect to meet targets for cost of goods sold, general and administrative expenses and capital expenditures, which we believe will continue to drive free cash flow generation and will assist us in our on-going debt reduction efforts.

Late last month, the Heathrow, Fla., company announced plans to pay off debt, sell USD 25 million (EUR 17.3 million) of newly created stock to a New York private equity firm. It reduced its outstanding debt by about USD 35 million (EUR 24.2 million) last year.

“As we enter 2010, we believe the proposed financing transactions … will allow us to further reduce the company’s leverage in a very meaningful way and provide us with the financial flexibility to improve our performance and competitive position,” said O’Donnell.

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