October 18, 2011 / 5:26 PM / 6 years ago

Domino's profit tops view; eyes on "artisan" pies

A Domino's Pizza is pictured in its box in central London, February 15, 2009.Luke MacGregor

(Reuters) - Domino's Pizza Inc (DPZ.N) delivered better-than-expected quarterly profit and said it is optimistic about sales of its new "artisan" pizzas, sending its shares up almost 8 percent.

The pizza delivery chain on Tuesday said third-quarter sales at Domino's restaurants open at least a year were up 3 percent in the United States and up 8.1 percent internationally. Analysts said the growth in same-restaurant sales -- a gauge of restaurant performance -- topped their targets.

Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Domino's last year changed its U.S. pizza recipe to make it more flavorful, a move that bolstered sales.

Now, Domino's executives hope the company's new line of $7.99 "artisan" pizzas will further increase sales in the fourth quarter.

"We are certainly optimistic," Chief Executive J. Patrick Doyle said of the new, more upscale pizzas on a conference call with analysts.

Oppenheimer analyst Brian Bittner said in a client note that fourth-quarter results could be boosted by "an acceleration in online orders, the new artisan pizzas," and orders from fans watching pro football on TV.

Domino's had third-quarter net income of $22.1 million, or 36 cents per share, up from $16.6 million, or 27 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, profit was 35 cents per share, topping analysts' average estimate by 2 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The pizza delivery chain, which competes with Papa John's International Inc (PZZA.O) and Yum Brands Inc's (YUM.N) Pizza Hut chain, said revenue rose 8.3 percent to $376.3 million.

Same-restaurant sales at Pizza Hut U.S. were down 3 percent in the latest quarter. In China, where Pizza Hut is more upscale than in the United States, same-store sales grew 19 percent.

Domino's shares were up 7.7 percent in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; editing by John Wallace

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