Darden Restaurant 1Q profit jumps on sales increase

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NEW YORK (AP) - Darden Restaurants Inc. reported a boost in first-quarter profit on higher sales at its key Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants, while raising its outlook for the year.

The Orlando, Florida-based company also saw a sharp decline in tax costs, helping to boost the bottom line and beat Wall Street expectations.

Shares rose 4.3 percent in premarket trading.

The chain restaurant company's profit rose 40 percent to $166.2 million, or $1.32 per share.

Earnings, adjusted to account for discontinued operations, were $1.34 per share. That topped Wall Street expectations by 11 cents.

Sales rose 6.5 percent to $2.06 billion, also beating forecasts.

Overall same-restaurant sales rose 3.3 percent. Sales at Olive Garden restaurants open at least a year rose 5.3 percent and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants open at least rose 3.1 percent in the quarter.

Sales also increased at the company's other operations, including Eddie V's, The Capital Grille, Yard House, and Bahama Breeze.

Income taxes plunged 81 percent during the quarter to $7.1 million.

Darden Restaurants expects full-year earnings to be $5.52 to $5.65 per share, up from a prior forecast of $5.40 to $5.56 per share. It also raised its overall and same-restaurant sales forecast.

Darden Restaurants shares have climbed 23 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has risen almost 9 percent.

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on DRI at https://www.zacks.com/ap/DRI

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