Sept. 02--Darden Restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants that sold off its Red Lobster holdings in May, said in a news release this morning that it it sees positive sales and traffic trends toward the end of its first fiscal quarter ending Aug. 24.
Darden officials said they anticipate U.S. same-restaurant sales for the first quarter to be down about 1.3 percent for Olive Garden, up 2.8 percent for LongHorn Steakhouse, and up 2.1 percent for Darden's Specialty Restaurant Group, which includes The Capital Grille, Eddie V's, Yard House, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52. The company reported that it expects diluted net loss per share from continuing operations for its fiscal first quarter to be 13 to 15 cents.
Orlando-based Darden operates more than 1,500 restaurant and employs more than 150,000 people. The company opened a new-construction LongHorn Steakhouse opened a 6,280-square-foot, 240-seat LongHorn Steakhouse -- the steakhouse chain's third in the area -- on Miller Lane in Vandalia, generating 80 to 100 new jobs.
Same-store sales for Olive Garden are expected to turn positive in August, improving by a projected 0.8 percent, after a 4.2 percent drop in July.
Darden has launched what it calls the Olive Garden Brand Renaissance Plan and said it sees signs of progress, including improvement in guest-satisfaction scores across several categories in the first quarter; a 13 percent increase in Olive Garden's take-out business during the first quarter compared to the first quarter last year, enabled by the company-wide roll-out of online ordering during this year's first quarter; and testing of tablet technology in several restaurants, which has generated check growth, increased table turns, and an increase in tip percentage for servers.
Darden expects to release sales and earnings results for its fiscal first quarter on Sept. 12.
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