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A&W Revenue Royalties Income Fund saw same-store sales grow for the year, even as they slipped in the most recent quarter.

“We continue to deliver strong results despite some ongoing challenges in the food service industry,” said Susan Senecal, CEO at A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., during a conference call with analysts Wednesday after the company released its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results.

The key retail metric fell 1.9 per cent for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2019. That’s down from 12.3 per cent growth the same quarter the previous year, which the company called one of its “strongest quarters on record.”

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The metric grew 4.1 per cent for its 2019 financial year boosted by strong performance in B.C., Quebec and Ontario, compared to 9.8 per cent growth for the previous year.

“Despite the decline in the quarter, we’re pleased with the 2019 annual same-store sales growth,” said Senecal, adding it is especially pleased after last year’s “record annual” figure of 9.8 per cent growth.

The company saw strong results in 2018 when it became the first national burger chain in Canada to serve the trendy Beyond Meat burger.

The fast-food chain launched the burger in July 2018. It posted record same-stores sales growth for the third quarter of that year, which included the launch date, at 13 per cent from 896 restaurants, and the fourth quarter of that year, at 12.3 per cent from the same number of restaurants.

The fund reported net income excluding non-cash items of $10.246 million for the quarter, down from $10.816 for the same quarter the previous year.

Gross sales for the 934 restaurants in the royalty pool totalled $451.279 million compared to $439.950 million from 896 restaurants in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The company opened 25 new restaurants this past quarter, said Senecal, for a total of 50 new locations opened in the past financial year.

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“Our pipeline of new restaurants under development remains very strong,” she said with 16 new locations under construction and expected to open in the coming months, as well as others in various stages of the permitting process.

“Looking ahead to the first quarter of 2020, A&W plans to continue to focus on key strategies that drive sales, which in combination with the work to improve guest experience aim to fuel additional visits and build loyalty.”

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