Like watching a tasty Olive Garden breadstick tumble to the dirty floor, you're going to miss the dough.
Olive Garden parent Darden Restaurants
Sales climbed 17% higher to $1.5 billion, but don't go waving that lobster bib in buttery jubilation. If you back out the $163 million contributed to the top line by RARE's LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille chains, Darden's sales inched up by a mere 4.5%.
The standout performer was Olive Garden, but only by default. Comps dipped at LongHorn, while clocking in essentially flat at Red Lobster, Capital Grille, and Bahama Breeze. As you might imagine, Darden didn't even come close to making my list of the best restaurant stocks to buy for 2008.
There are worse things than flattish popularity, though it's hard to show Darden some love when other casual dining and quick-service chains like IHOP
So what's the rub at Darden? The company isn't rudderless, though one can argue over the logic of unloading one carnivore concept in Smokey Bones for two more in LongHorn and Capital Grille.
Investors could call for more focus at Darden, but that's just the way it goes in the industry. Companies like Yum! Brands
If anything, maybe Darden should take a cue from its multiheaded-hydra peers and embrace a snazzier grub-worthy ticker symbol like YUM or EAT. I mean, really now; who wants to eat at a DRI restaurant?
I'm joking, of course. Then again, when you're a shareholder in a company that missed as badly as Darden, you can use a good chuckle -- after all, you're not exactly going to laugh all the way to the bank.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is always on the lookout for a good steakhouse and, thankfully, has plenty to choose from in Miami. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and it likes its cuts extra-rare.