posted a 20% rise in second-quarter earnings amid sales growth at both its big chains, Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
For the quarter ended Aug. 26, the casual-dining chain owner earned $105.9 million, or 72 cents a share, up from $88.5 million, or 59 cents a share, a year earlier.
Earnings from continuing operations rose to 73 cents a share from 62 cents last year. Analysts expected earnings of 70 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.
Sales rose to $1.47 billion from $1.36 billion last year. Analysts projected a top line of $1.46 billion.
Same-store sales at the Red Lobster chain jumped 7% in the quarter, while same-store sales at Olive Garden climbed 4.8%.
"We are pleased to deliver strong operating results in what continues to be a challenging environment," said Drew Madsen, president and chief operating officer of Darden, in a statement.
Darden reiterated that it expects combined U.S. same-restaurant sales growth in fiscal 2008 of between 2% and 4% for Red Lobster and Olive Garden. The company projects 10% to 12% for the fiscal year, excluding one-time items.
Darden owns 680 Red Lobster restaurants and 621 Olive Gardens. The company also owns 23 Bahama Breeze and 73 Smokey Bones restaurants.
In August, Darden agreed to buy
, owner of the LongHorn Steakhouse and Capital Grille chains, for $1.4 billion.