March 22 Darden Restaurants Inc's
quarterly results were largely in line with analysts' recently
lowered estimates as the U.S. payroll tax hike and higher
gasoline prices kept diners away from its Olive Garden and Red
Orlando-based Darden, which has been trying to lure frugal
diners with promotional offers and cheaper menu items, in
February lowered its 2013 profit forecast after warning on its
results for the fiscal third quarter ended Feb 24.
Since then, analysts have reduced their earnings estimate
for the quarter by 10 percent on average, according to Thomson
Reuters StarMine data.
Net income fell to $134.4 million, or $1.02 per share,
from $164.1 million, or $1.25 per share, a year earlier.
Sales rose 4.6 percent to $2.26 billion.
Analysts on average expected a profit of $1.01 per share on
sales of $2.26 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Visits to Darden's "Big Three" brands - Olive Garden, Red
Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse - were also hurt by colder
weather. Combined same-restaurant sales at those chains fell 4.6
The company reiterated its full-year profit forecast of
$3.06 to $3.22 per share.