UPDATE 2-Brinker's results hit by weak sales at Chili's chain

Wed Oct 23, 2013 11:38am EDT

(Adds executive comment, 2014 sales and EPS forecasts)

Oct 23 (Reuters) - Brinker International Inc reported fiscal first-quarter results that missed analysts' estimates, hurt by a bigger-than-expected decline in same-store sales at its Chili's Grill & Bar chain.

Shares in Dallas-based Brinker fell 5.8 percent to $39.74 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.

Chili's and other full-service U.S. restaurants are struggling to compete with chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread Co, which offer frugal diners high-quality meals at lower prices. The full-service restaurant category, also known as casual dining, has been aggressively promoting deals to lure diners but success has been limited.

Darden Restaurants Inc, owner of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, reported dismal results for the latest quarter. Ruby Tuesday Inc posted a larger-than-expected loss and a steep decline in same-restaurant sales.

"The malaise we have seen in the category didn't let up this quarter," Brinker Chief Executive Wyman Roberts said on a conference call with analysts. "Our primary focus for the remainder of fiscal 2014 is growing sales."

Among other things the company plans to continue introducing new food, working to increase its delivery and to-go business and spend more money on marketing, renovations and new restaurant openings.

Sales at Brinker-owned Chili's restaurants open for at least 18 months fell 1.6 percent in the first quarter ended Sept. 25, more than the 0.7 percent decline analysts had expected, according to Consensus Metrix.

Same-restaurant sales at its Maggiano's Little Italy chain rose 0.6 percent, in line with analysts' estimates.

Brinker's net income rose to $29.2 million, or 42 cents per share, in the quarter, from $27.9 million, or 36 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, it earned 43 cents per share, falling short of the average analyst estimate of 45 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Total revenue was flat at $683.9 million, but also fell short of analysts' estimates of $685.9 million.

Brinker forecast fiscal 2014 same-restaurant sales that are down 1 percent to up 1 percent. It also forecast full-year earnings in the range of $2.65 to $2.75 per share. (Reporting by Maria Ajit Thomas in Bangalore and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Kirti Pandey, Savio D'Souza and Nick Zieminski)

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