Benihana Inc. Franchise Provides Update on Strategic Review; Engages Jefferies & Company, Inc. to Pursue Sale Process

MIAMI (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Benihana Inc. (NASDAQ: BNHNA; BNHN), operator of the nation's largest chain of Japanese theme and sushi restaurants, today announced that its Board of Directors has engaged Jefferies & Company, Inc. as its exclusive financial advisor in pursuing a sale of the Company. The Company previously announced its decision to explore strategic alternatives available to the Company, including a possible sale, in an effort to maximize shareholder value.

Richard Stockinger, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "In July, as part of our Board's commitment to exploring all avenues for maximizing shareholder value, we announced that we would be conducting a formal review of strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the Company. The appointment today of Jefferies & Company, Inc. as our exclusive financial advisor is the next step in our sale process. Although there can be no assurance of any transaction at the end of the process, we expect Jefferies & Company, Inc. to leverage its significant restaurant financial advisory experience and capital markets background in assisting and advising us during the sale process."

"At the same time, we remain focused on our operating strategies for strengthening the Company. For example, we believe our Benihana Teppanyaki Renewal Program is already delivering significant value to our guests and our shareholders. Under the Program, we implemented a comprehensive set of initiatives to restore and enhance the value of our flagship brand with a view towards creating future profitable growth for shareholders. This Program is already driving positive top-line performance, with consistent outperformance of the Benihana Teppanyaki brand against its peers in 34 of the last 36 weeks. We believe the Company is now well-positioned to gain valuable operating leverage and deliver sustainable, profitable growth going forward," said Mr. Stockinger.

Since its rollout last fall, the Renewal Program has reinforced the Company's pillars of quality food, entertainment and an unparalleled guest experience. The Program included a review of each element of the Benihana Teppanyaki brand, and the implementation of a number of initiatives, which resulted in significant improvements, including:

  • numerous upgrades to food quality;
  • an enhanced beverage program;
  • updated and repaired facilities;
  • a comprehensive purchasing program for increased cost efficiencies;
  • retrained staff in cooking techniques and service standards;
  • restructured and upgraded field management;
  • retention of third parties to monitor and audit store-level operations on a regular, standardized basis;
  • revamped human resources including updated job descriptions, titles, policies and incentive plans;
  • reinforced standards within our franchise system; and
  • outsourced infrastructure functions and reduced overhead.

And because the motivation behind the Renewal Program was always the guests, it is especially significant that this was accomplished without any increase in entrée menu prices.

To coincide with the Renewal Program, a number of new marketing programs were launched to enhance communication with current guests and to attract new ones. The Chef's Table is our email program that shares upcoming specials, promotions and offers and honors each member's birthday with a $30 gift certificate. This program has now registered 1.25 million members since April 2009. And for the younger guests, over 135,000 Kabuki Kids members under the age of 13 receive a souvenir mug when they visit any of the restaurants during the month of their birthday.

"Our entire Benihana organization is striving to improve upon our progress with the Benihana Teppanyaki concept, and extend the reach of our Renewal Program into our RA Sushi and Haru brands. By pairing the Board's intent to pursue a sale of the Company with this effort, we are demonstrating our multi-faceted commitment to providing maximum value to shareholders," concluded Mr. Stockinger.

The Company does not intend to disclose developments with respect to the progress of its sale process until such time as the Board has approved a transaction or otherwise deems disclosure appropriate.

About Benihana

Benihana Inc. (NASDAQ: BNHNA; BNHN) operates 97 restaurants nationwide, including 63 Benihana Teppanyaki restaurants, nine Haru sushi restaurants, and 25 RA Sushi Bar restaurants. In addition, 20 franchised Benihana Teppanyaki restaurants are operating in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.

Safe Harbor Statement

Matters discussed in this press release contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 that involve substantial risks and uncertainties.Actual events and results could differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements.The Company cautions that, while it has determined to engage Jefferies & Company to advise and assist in the sale of the Company, there is no assurance that the sale process will result in a sale of the Company or any other transaction.There is also no assurance regarding the timing of any transaction that the Company may elect to pursue.The forward-looking statements are also subject to a number of other risks and uncertainties which may impact the Company's ability to maximize shareholder value.These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, those related to the Company's business strategy, including the Renewal Program and the Company's marketing programs, and the Company's other efforts with respect to its Teppanyaki, RA Sushi and Haru brand. In addition to the risks and uncertainties identified above, reference is also made to other risks and uncertainties detailed in reports filed by the Company with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

SOURCE: Benihana Inc.

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