Olive Garden improvement lifts Darden profit

March 23 Fri Mar 23, 2012 7:17am EDT

March 23 (Reuters) - Darden Restaurants Inc's Olive Garden chain, which generates almost half of company revenue, posted its first rise in quarterly same-restaurant sales in more than a year, lifting the restaurant operator's quarterly profit.

Earnings at the Orlando, Florida-based company that also operates the Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse chains were $164.1 million, or $1.25 per share, from continuing operations, for the third quarter ended Feb. 26, up from $151.2 million, or $1.08 a share, a year earlier.

Sales at Olive Garden restaurants open at least 16 months were up 2 percent during the third quarter.

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