Ruth's Hospitality Group Inc. (NASDAQ:RUTH) Q1 2018 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript

May 04, 2018 • 08:30 am ET

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Ruth's Hospitality Group Inc. (NASDAQ:RUTH) Q1 2018 Earnings Conference Call - Final Transcript

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Presentation
Executive
Michael P. O'Donnell

their team for their contributions. Our comparable restaurants also performed very well during the quarter, driving sales growth for a number of areas. Special occasion business, which again performed particularly well, both Valentine's Day and Easter once again showed year-over-year growth. Followed by focus on Sizzle, Swizzle & Swirl private dining and significant -- and wine -- and at the wine dinner that we had during the first quarter, along with individual store initiatives. We continue to rely on the excellent execution of our teams in the field.

Our franchise partners, who are the heart and soul of our brand, also had a good quarter, with improving comparable sales trends throughout the quarter. While the sales trends in our international markets were not as strong as those in the U.S., our partners continued to deliver a consistently great guest experience and are completely committed to Ruth's excellence. As we have talked about many times, the Ruth's Chris Steak House experience is the foundation of our brand and is responsible for our consistent results over the years. The consistency of our operations coupled with our strong and flexible balance sheet, enables us to execute our total return strategy, to create long-term shareholder values. Successful execution of this strategy is accomplished in three ways, investing in our core business, growing in a disciplined fashion and returning capital to our shareholders.

Our first priority is to invest in our core business to help protect the brand and evolve with today's consumer. We continued our Ruth's 2.0 restaurant re-model program, this initiative enhances our guest experience and expands our operating capabilities. We currently expect to complete seven to eight remodels in 2018, which means we will have done 21 of the 77 restaurants that we have in the system. In addition, we were investing 20% to 30% of our 2018 tax savings into our core business brand, sales driving and people initiatives. The second component of our total return strategy is disciplined growth. We are actively working on sites that meet our investment criteria for development. As previously announced, we expect to open a new company-owned location in Jersey City, New Jersey in the third quarter of this year. Additionally, we recently announced an agreement to operate a new restaurant in Reno, Nevada in partnership with El Dorado Resorts. This will be our third casino location, so we'll operate under a manager -- management agreement similar to our restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Cherokee, North Carolina.

Further more, we are pleased to announce the signing of a new lease for a Company-owned restaurant in Paramus, New Jersey, which we expect to open in the first quarter of 2019. Our franchise partners also continued to support and invest in the restaurant, and we expect to open two locations in 2018, one in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this coming Monday; and one in Markham, Ontario during the fourth quarter. The last component of our total return strategy is returning capital to our shareholders. We remain committed to