Darden Profit Falls 18% But Tops Street


Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) revealed an 18% profit decline on Friday amid weaker same-store sales at its three major chains but still managed to top Wall Street expectations and boast higher sales.

Darden cut its third-quarter and full-year profit expectations last month citing softening demand as consumers cut back in the face of higher taxes and gas prices.

In its most recent quarter, same-store sales, a key measurement of sales at stores open longer than a year, fell 4.1%.

Yet, the Orlando-based operator of chain restaurants like Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse reported net earnings of $134.5 million, $1.02 a share, compared with a year-earlier $164.1 million, or $1.25.

The results were a penny ahead of average analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Fueled by stronger demand and its August acquisition of Yard House restaurants, revenue for the three months ended Feb. 24 climbed 4.6% to $2.26 billion, matching the Street’s view.

Darden continues to anticipate sales growth between 6% and 7% in fiscal 2013, with same-store sales at Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn falling between 1.5% and 2.5%. It sees non-GAAP EPS in the range of $3.06 to $3.22, bracketing the consensus view of $3.16.