By Sandra Pedicini, Orlando Sentinel
9:44 PM CDT, September 11, 2011
Analysts found Orlando-based Darden Restaurants' expected first-quarter earnings surprisingly low, but they still had generally positive views of the company's performance.
Darden said last week it expects earnings per share of 78 cents. Several analysts had expected earnings between 85 and 87 cents. Sagging sales at Olive Garden, rising food costs and Hurricane Irene all hampered earnings growth for the first quarter, which ended in August.
Darden also said last week that for this year, it expects earnings towards the lower end of the 12 to 15 percent growth it had previously predicted.
Darden's full earnings report comes out Sept. 28. The company released preliminary numbers early because they didn't meet Wall Street expectations.
First-quarter sales at Olive Garden restaurants open at least 16 months dropped 2.9 percent from the previous year. Red Lobster's sales jumped 10.7 percent, and LongHorn Steakhouse's increased 4.8 percent.
Some analysts lowered their earnings per share expectations for this year. But they were encouraged by Darden's share-buyback plans and Red Lobster's performance. They said Olive Garden should turn around.
Yeager switches roles
Monique Yeager has left her job as spokeswoman for Maitland-based Sonny's Franchise Co. and has joined the Orlando office of Tony Roma's as marketing director. Tony Roma's parent company Romacorp is based in Dallas but has many of its departments here and plans to make Orlando its official headquarters in the next three years.
Menchie's Frozen Yogurt plans to open two new Central Florida shops – including one in downtown Orlando, at Paramount on Lake Eola, 406 E. Central Blvd.
The second will open at 3030 E. Semoran Blvd., Unit 274A, in the Apopka area.
New Fashion Square cafe
Green Day Café, which operates a restaurant on Lee Road, is opening in Orlando Fashion Square on Thursday.
Green Day Café says it serves affordable but healthy fast food in an eco-friendly environment. It first opened in 2008 on Lee Road, with features that include cups and forks made from sugar cane and corn.
Feds order Darden to pay back wages, fine
Darden Restaurants will pay $27,427 in back wages and a federal fine of $23,980 after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found that 109 current and former servers at a Red Lobster in Lubbock, Texas, were improperly paid.
Investigators determined that workers were allowed to clock in once customers were seated, instead of at the start of their scheduled work shifts as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This resulted in shorter hours and compensation that fell below the federal minimum wage, the Labor Department said in a news release.
"We took immediate action when we were notified of this issue at our restaurant in Lubbock, Texas, and revisited our wage standards with all managers and employees to ensure this doesn't happen again," a Red Lobster spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.
In March, Darden was fined $30,800 for similar violations and agreed to pay $25,570 in back wages at an Olive Garden more than 300 miles away in Mesquite, Texas.
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