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May 10, 2019

Freshii net income plummets in first quarter despite higher revenues

Freshii's top shareholder backs CEO Corrin amid stock slide

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Freshii Inc. (FRII.TO) plans to launch higher-quality protein ingredients as it attempts to win back customers amid a continued negative sales performance.

Yet its chief executive is convinced the eatery chain's headed in the right direction.

"We've made some really important strides in our business over the last few months," said Matthew Corrin, Freshii's founder and CEO during a conference call with analysts Friday morning, a day after the company released its first-quarter financial results.

"I know we continue to have a lot of work ahead to drive growth and positive results for our franchise partners and shareholders."

The chain, which opened its first store in 2005, struggled with trying to do too much at once and suffered from slower-than-expected store growth and shrinking same-store sales, a key retail metric.

Corrin decided to implement a new mantra to do fewer things, better.

During Freshii's most recent quarter, it started rolling out its new streamlined menu, he said. The revamped offerings eliminated the lowest-selling menu items and highest-waste ingredients, in part, to improve food costs.

"We've seen no decrease in sales at all," as a result of the change, Corrin said.

The company also added new packaged goods such as wraps, lunch boxes, immune elixir shots, two flavours of kombucha, a charcoal lemonade and celery juice.

The second phase of the menu shakeup is to upgrade the company's protein offerings, he said.

"We know that a lot of our guests would like to see better quality proteins," Corrin said.

The company will soon sell chicken breasts, baked salmon and turkey meatballs. It will elevate its tofu and falafel options, he said, and mostly scrap its beef option except in a few locations where it remains a top seller. The new proteins will start rolling out in stores this summer.

The chain also ran its first traditional marketing campaign in the past quarter.

The company's same-store sales for the quarter ended March 31 fell 0.9 per cent compared to the same quarter the previous year.

That figure is not back to where the company would like to see it, Corrin said, but it's encouraged that it is heading in the right direction after being negative 6.1 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Freshii, which reports in U.S. dollars, said its net income plummeted to $103,000 from $431,000 or one cent per share a year earlier.

Analysts had expected $200,000 or two cents per share for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

Excluding one-time items, adjusted earnings were cut in half to $517,000 from about $1 million in the prior period. Analysts had expected $800,000 or two cents per share.

Total revenues, which includes its franchised shops and its company-owned stores, rose seven per cent to $5.2 million while system-wide sales were up nearly 11 per cent to $43.2 million from $39 million.

The company ended the quarter with 446 stores after opening 21 locations and closing 14.