UPDATE 2-Sales at Chili's parent Brinker miss Street forecast

Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:30am EST

* Quarterly profit of 50 cents a share meets Wall Street view

* Chili's same-restaurant sales up 1 pct; Maggiano's up 0.6 pct

* CEO says Brinker has won market share

* Shares down 4.1 percent

Jan 22 (Reuters) - Chili's Grill & Bar parent Brinker International Inc on Tuesday reported slower-than-expected quarterly sales growth at established restaurants as fewer diners came through its doors, sending its shares down more than 4 percent.

Total sales and franchise revenue increased 1.1 percent to $689.8 million in the second quarter ended on Dec. 26, just below the $693 million that analysts were expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales at restaurants open at least 18 months rose 1 percent at Chili's and increased by 0.6 percent at Maggiano's in the quarter. Analysts polled by Consensus Metrix were looking for a 1.5 percent rise at Chili's and a gain of 0.7 percent at Maggiano's.

Still, this was the eighth straight quarter of sales gains for the restaurant operator.

The period has been challenging for restaurants and retailers as consumers showed more caution in how they spend, but Brinker Chief Executive Officer Wyman Roberts said his company had won market share.

Raymond James analyst Bryan Elliott, however, called the sales performance "slightly disappointing" and said Brinker's lead over its rivals had "narrowed" during the quarter.

Customers gravitated to meals that are more profitable for Brinker even as they visited less often. At company-owned Chili's restaurants, traffic fell 1.9 percent, and at Maggiano's, it declined 2.4 percent during the quarter.

The chain's profit was helped by the higher menu pricing and better prices for produce and chicken, partly offset by unfavorable pork and beef prices and higher employee health insurance claims.

The Dallas-based company reported net income of $37.2 million, or 50 cents per share, for the quarter, compared with $35.7 million, or 44 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, Brinker still made 50 cents per share, in line with Wall Street forecasts.

Shares of Brinker were down 4.1 percent at $32.01 in morning trading.

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