Gleaning important insight from Darden Restaurants'
For the quarter, same-store sales growth at Red Lobster and Oliver Garden was strong, increasing 7% and 4.8%, respectively. Red Lobster kicked off its fresh-fish ad program in July, and that and a fresh-catch menu printed twice daily is contributing to "measurable improvement in brand perception," according to management in the latest call. Further, there are positive guest satisfaction scores in response to a new Bar Harbor-inspired remodeling effort. Darden's leadership team believes the prototype, named after a popular destination in Maine (a charming seaside village that I have visited) will be a "growth vehicle for the foreseeable future."
It's impossible to say enough about Olive Garden's longtime success. With the 4.8% comps growth at the start of fiscal 2008, the brand has now achieved a remarkable 52 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth. As for hit-and-miss concepts like Bob Evans Farms
The biggest news was the announcement of its acquisition of RARE Hospitality
The RARE acquisition will pit the company more squarely against other competitors in the steakhouse side of casual dining, like Texas Roadhouse
Overall, Darden just served up a nice, hot plate of tasty results. Positive trends and a shiny new acquisition should lead to continued success.
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