Darden Meets Earnings Estimates, but Sales Are Soft

The Olive Garden Darden Restaurants
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Darden Restaurants' third-quarter net income dropped 18 percent, as it dealt with soft sales at Red Lobster.

Following the report, the company's shares were nearly unchanged in premarket trading. (Click here to track Darden shares following the company's earnings report.)

The Orlando, Florida-based company says sales at its Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants open at least a year fell a combined 4.6 percent.

Darden Restaurants has been struggling to make its brands relevant again as diners increasingly head to chains like Chipotle and Panera, where they feel they're getting restaurant-quality food without paying as much.

Darden said Friday that it earned $134.4 million, or $1.02 per share, for the three months ended Feb. 24. That's down from $164.1 million, or $1.25 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $2.26 billion from $2.16 billion, meeting Wall Street's view.

Wall Street analysts had expected the company to report earnings excluding items of $1.01 a share on $2.26 billion in revenue.

The company reaffirmed its fiscal 2013 earnings forecast.