The company, whose brands include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Yard House and other popular restaurant chains, also said it was implementing mobile technologies to make it easier for customers to say when they have arrived for dine-in or curbside pickup.
CEO Gene Lee said on an earnings call with analysts that the health and safety of its staff and customers remains the company’s top priority. “Following CDC guidelines and local requirements, our teams continue to practice our enhanced safety protocols, including daily team member health monitoring,” he said.
Lee also noted that the company continues to set up its dining rooms with social distancing to ensure a safe environment while maximizing allowable capacity. He indicated that an essential part of that work is implementing booth partitions to accommodate more diners where permissible.
Despite the pandemic, Lee said Olive Garden managed to open three new restaurants during the latest quarter, while LongHorn Steakhouse opened two.
However, same-restaurant sales were down 28.2 percent for Olive Garden during the period, as well as 18.1 percent for LongHorn Steakhouse, 39.1 percent for Darden’s fine-dining segment and 39 percent at its other businesses.
Still, Darden said it fully paid back a $270 million term loan, as the company enjoyed “steadily improving cash flows in the quarter, and increased confidence in cash flow projections.” The firm added that it currently has access to $1.4 billion in liquidity — $655 million in cash and $750 million available via a credit facility.
As for its overall results, Darden reported diluted net earnings per share from continuing operations of 28 cents on total sales of $1.53 billion. Analysts had forecast earnings per share of 5 cents on revenues of $1.56 billion.
Darden also declared a 30-cent-per-share quarterly cash dividend payable on Nov. 2 to shareholders of record as of Oct. 9.