Though it saw its sales driven down steeply by the coronavirus pandemic like the rest of the restaurant industry, The Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) managed to dish up sweeter than expected results in at least one key metric: earnings per share, or EPS. The company's first quarter 2020 results, published yesterday, show that its comparable restaurant sales fell by 12.9% year over year despite the strong start before the virus arrived.

Diluted EPS came in at $0.04 per share, beating the analyst consensus estimate reported by Zack's by a full $0.50. Analysts had expected the restaurant company to post losses of $0.46 per share. Nevertheless, though still positive, earnings showed the effects of COVID-19 when compared to first quarter 2019's $0.62 EPS. Its $615.11 million in revenues also topped predictions, though only marginally.

Cheesecake on a striped tablecloth.

Image source: Getty Images.

During the ensuing earnings conference call, CEO David Overton said that the company's long experience in off-premise sales helped it switch over more successfully to a model relying exclusively on these purchases, with dine-in closed down during the epidemic.

Overton also expressed his assessment that The Cheesecake Factory is "well positioned for a strong restart." He pointed to the "flexible seating arrangements" at its locations as useful for social distancing once the restaurants start reopening to the public, and said it should be possible to seat enough diners to produce "meaningful sales volumes."

The share values of many major restaurants have been on a roller coaster as investors respond to apparently good news about the coronavirus, only to bid them down again following less favorable macroeconomic news. Overall, The Cheesecake Factory's stock has fallen more than the S&P's approximate 12% drop since 2020's start, losing more than 48% of its value.