Gross profit in the first quarter of 2003 was $19,052,000 compared with $17,893,000 in the first quarter of the prior year. The gross margin rate in the first quarter of 2003 improved to 34.8 percent compared with 32.8 percent for the prior year first quarter. Operating income increased to $6,407,000 in the first quarter 2003 from $4,721,000 in the prior year comparable period. Operating income margins improved to 11.7 percent compared with 8.7 percent for the prior year first quarter.
Commenting on the company's performance for the quarter, Selim A. Bassoul, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "We believe that our customer base intends to expand at a greater pace in the future but that they are waiting for a clearer picture of the economic outlook before moving forward. We will, in the meantime, continue to develop energy savings and labor savings equipment that will bring measurable savings to our customers such as the Energy Management System® on our Middleby Marshall conveyor ovens and our new energy efficient Solstice® platform of Pitco fryers."
Mr. Bassoul continued, "The accretive impact of the Blodgett acquisition cost savings initiatives that were completed in the first half of last year along with lower interest costs resulting from the fourth quarter 2002 debt refinancing and our lower level of debt have contributed greatly to our 150 percent increase in first quarter net earnings. Although we would like to see a more robust top line growth rate, we are very pleased with our overall first quarter performance in this difficult economy."