Olive Garden owner's shares hit 52-week high after earnings beat, raised forecast

  • Darden posted better-than-expected fiscal first-quarter earnings, buoyed by strong sales at most of its restaurant brands.
  • The company expects same-store sales in fiscal 2019 to grow 2 to 5 percent, up from the 1 to 2 percent it forecast last quarter.
  • Across all brands, same-store sales grew 3.3 percent, better than the 1.1 percent analysts had forecast.
An Olive Garden restaurant in Laguna Hills, California
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
An Olive Garden restaurant in Laguna Hills, California

Darden Restaurants shares hit a 52-week high Thursday after the company posted better-than-expected fiscal first-quarter earnings, buoyed by strong sales at most of its restaurants, and a raised outlook for 2019.

Darden's shares were recently up more than 3 percent. Earlier, the stock traded as high as $124, setting a fresh high. The stock is up more than 22 percent since January.

"We are pleased to report another quarter of strong results and market share gains," Gene Lee, CEO of Darden, said in a statement. "Our competitive advantages continue to work hard for us, allowing us to invest in our people and brands to deliver exceptional guest experiences."

The restaurant group, whose eight brands include Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, said net income rose to $166.2 million, or $1.32 per share, from $119.0 million, or 93 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding discontinued operations, the company earned $1.34 per share, beating Wall Street estimates of $1.24 per share, according to Thomson Reuters consensus.

Revenue in the latest period increased 6.5 percent to $2.06 billion, larger than the $2.03 billion analysts had expected.

Darden's strong first-quarter earnings performance was buoyed by positive same-store sales at six of its eight branded restaurants. Across all brands, same-store sales grew 3.3 percent, better than the 1.1 percent analysts had forecast.

Olive Garden saw same-store sales rise 5.3 percent in the quarter, and LongHorn Steakhouse's grew 3.1 percent. At Eddie V's, the figure jumped 3 percent, and The Capital Grille's climbed 3.9 percent. Yard House and Bahama Breeze also reported sales growth.

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen, which the company acquired a year ago, saw same-store sales fall 4 percent in the quarter, and Seasons 52 saw sales growth slip 1.9 percent.

Darden said it now expects same-store sales in fiscal 2019 to grow 2 to 5 percent, up from the 1 to 2 percent it forecast last quarter. The company also estimated full-year earnings to be $5.52 to $5.65 per share.