Darden Restaurants' CEO Discusses Q3 2012 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

Darden Restaurants (DRI)

Q3 2012 Earnings Call

March 23, 2012 8:30 am ET

Executives

Matthew Stroud - Former Vice President of Investor Relations

C. Bradford Richmond - Chief Financial Officer, Principal Accounting Officer and Senior Vice President

Andrew H. Madsen - President, Chief Operating Officer and Director

Clarence Otis - Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of Executive Committee

Analysts

Brad Ludington - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

Michael Kelter - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

David Palmer - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

David E. Tarantino - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Will Slabaugh - Stephens Inc., Research Division

Joseph T. Buckley - BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division

Alvin C. Concepcion - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Jeffrey Andrew Bernstein - Barclays Capital, Research Division

John S. Glass - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Matthew J. DiFrisco - Lazard Capital Markets LLC, Research Division

Mitchell J. Speiser - The Buckingham Research Group Incorporated

John W. Ivankoe - JP Morgan Chase & Co, Research Division

Christopher T. O'Cull - SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., Research Division

Brian J. Bittner - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., Research Division

Sara H. Senatore - Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC., Research Division

Keith Siegner - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

Bryan C. Elliott - Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the Darden Restaurants Third Quarter Earnings Release. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, this conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Matthew Stroud. Please go ahead.

Matthew Stroud

Thank you, Robert. Good morning. With me today are Clarence Otis, Darden's Chairman and CEO; Drew Madsen, Darden's President and COO; Brad Richmond, Darden's CFO; and Gene Lee, President of Darden's Specialty Restaurant Group. We welcome those of you joining us by telephone or the Internet.

During the course of this conference call, Darden Restaurants' officers and employees may make forward-looking statements concerning the company's expectations, goals or objectives. Forward-looking statements are made under the Safe Harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Any forward-looking statements speak only as of the date on which such statements are made, and we undertake no obligation to update such statements to reflect events or circumstances arising after such date.

We wish to caution investors not to place undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements. By their nature, forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to materially differ from those anticipated in the statements. The most significant of these uncertainties are described in Darden's Form 10-K, Form 10-Q and Form 8-K reports, including all amendments to those reports.

These risks and uncertainties include food safety and food-borne illness concerns; litigation; unfavorable publicity; federal, state and local regulation of our business, including health care reform, labor and insurance costs, technology failures, failure to execute a business continuity plan following a disaster; health concerns including virus outbreaks; the intensely competitive nature of the restaurant industry; factors impacting our ability to drive sales growth; the impact of the indebtedness we incurred in the RARE acquisition; our plans to expand our newer brands like Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52; our ability to successfully integrate Eddie V's restaurant operations; a lack of suitable new restaurant locations; higher-than-anticipated costs to open, close or remodel restaurants; increased advertising and marketing costs; a failure to develop and recruit effective leaders; the price and availability of key food products and utilities; shortages or interruptions in the delivery of food and other products; volatility in the market value of derivatives; general macroeconomic factors, including unemployment and interest rates; disruptions in the financial markets; risks of doing business with franchisees and vendors in foreign markets; failure to protect our service marks or other intellectual property; a possible impairment in the carrying value of our goodwill or other intangible assets; a failure of our internal controls over financial reporting or changes in accounting standards; and other factors and uncertainties discussed from time to time in reports filed by Darden with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A copy of our press release announcing our earnings, the Form 8-K used to furnish the release to the Securities and Exchange Commission and any other financial and statistical information about the period covered in the conference call, including any information required by Regulation G, is available under the heading Investor Relations on our website at darden.com.

We plan to release fiscal 2012 fourth quarter earnings and same-restaurant sales for fiscal March, April and May 2012 on Friday, June 22, 2012, before the market opens with a conference call shortly after. We released third quarter earnings results this morning. These results were available on PR Newswire and other wire services. We recognize that most of you have reviewed our third quarter earnings, so we won't take the time to go through them in detail once again in an effort to provide more time for your questions. We will offer a line item summary of the P&L, discuss our financial outlook for fiscal 2012 and discuss our brand-by-brand operating performance summary.

To begin, Brad will provide detail about our financial results for the third quarter. Drew will review the operating performance of our brands, and Clarence will offer some closing comments. We will then respond to your questions.

With that, let me turn it over to Brad to walk you through the financial details for the quarter.

C. Bradford Richmond

Well, thank you, Matthew, and good morning, everyone. Darden's total sales from continuing operations increased 9.3% in the third quarter to $2,160,000,000. This strong top line performance compares to an estimated 4.1% total sales growth for the industry, excluding Darden, as measured by Knapp-Track. So we had meaningful market share growth.

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