Shareholders Eat Up Brinker's 4Q EPS Beat

Restaurant chain owner Brinker Restaurants (NYSE:EAT) disclosed a 34% drop-off in fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, but non-GAAP EPS at the parent of Chilis exceeded Wall Streets expectations.

Shares of Dallas-based Brinker rallied around the earnings beat and stronger-than-anticipated guidance for the new fiscal year.

Brinker said it earned $41.9 million, or 49 cents a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $63.6 million, or 62 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, it earned 48 cents a share, topping estimates by a penny.

Revenue slid 3.4% to $717.5 million, compared with consensus calls from analysts for $711 million. Same-restaurant sales increased 2.6% last quarter.

Comparable sales grew 2.1% at Chilis and 5.7% at Maggianos, marking the chains sixth-straight quarterly increase.

Brinker's performance in fiscal 2011 demonstrates we're delivering on our promise of strengthening our business model and driving top line sales and traffic growth, especially considering that during the fourth quarter, we were up against an extra operating week from 2010, CEO Doug Brook said in a statement.

Brinker also issued upbeat guidance, saying it sees non-GAAP EPS of $1.80 to $1.95 on a 2% to 3% rise in revenue. Even the low end of the new outlook would surpass the Streets EPS view of just $1.76.

In a sign of enthusiasm for the results and outlook, Wall Street bid Brinkers beaten-down stock 7.34% higher to $22.11 Thursday morning. The stock had lost more than one-fifth of its market value over the previous four months.

Fast-food chain Wendys (NYSE:WEN) reported an in-line 4.9% rise in second-quarter results on Thursday, sending the companys stock rallying almost 3%.