Darden 2Q profit nearly flat, sales slip

ORLANDO Fla. Darden Restaurants Inc. reported late Thursday a nearly flat second-quarter profit of $60.3 million, compared with year-ago earnings of $59.7 million. Its per-share earnings remained at 43 cents.

The company’s revenue fell slightly to $1.64 billion for the quarter ended Nov. 29, versus revenue of $1.67 billion in the second quarter a year ago. Domestic same-store sales fell 1.4 percent at Olive Garden, 8.4 percent at Red Lobster and 6.2 percent at LongHorn Steakhouse, the company’s largest chains. Darden Restaurants, which in total operates about 1,789 restaurants, also owns The Capital Grille and Bahama Breeze chains. Same-store sales fell 14.2 percent and 6.1 percent at those chains, respectively.

Orlando-based Darden said second-quarter same-store sales were hurt by about 2.7 percent because of Thanksgiving, which fell in the December fiscal calendar last year, but the November calendar this year.

“Sales trends were still a little more sluggish than we expected,” said Brad Richmond, the company’s chief financial officer. “At the same time, cost trends have been more favorable than we expected. So, while we are bringing down the range of blended same-restaurant sales we expect this fiscal year, our annual earnings per share expectations remain on track.”

Darden will hold its quarterly conference call Friday.

Contact Sarah Lockyer at [email protected] [3].