Darden Restaurants Inc. said March 21 it now expects fiscal 2019 diluted net EPS from continuing operations to come in the range of $5.76 to $5.80, up from the $5.60 to $5.70 range it gave in December 2018 and its third EPS outlook increase.
The company previously raised its EPS range to $5.52 to $5.65 in September from a prior range of $5.40 to $5.56 in June as it reported full-year fiscal 2018 results.
The Orlando, Fla.-based restaurant operator also updated its total sales forecast to a growth of approximately 5.5% year over year, from the prior forecast of a 5% to 5.5% increase. Darden Restaurants also narrowed its same-restaurant sales growth guidance to 2.5% to 2.7%, from an increase of about 2.5% provided during the company's fiscal second-quarter earnings release.
The full-year guidance boost comes as the owner of restaurants like Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille posted strong results for the third quarter of 2019 that "exceeded the industry," driven by profit growth across all of its restaurant brands.
For the three months ended Feb. 24, Darden Restaurants' adjusted diluted net EPS of $1.80 grew 5.3% from $1.71 in the fiscal third quarter of 2018 and exceeded the S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus normalized EPS estimate of $1.75.
Total sales for the quarter also increased 5.5% to $2.25 billion from $2.13 billion in the same period a year prior, driven by 39 net new restaurant openings and blended same-restaurant sales growth of 2.8%.
The company's board also declared a regular cash dividend of 75 cents per share payable on May 1 to shareholders of record at the close of business April 10, unchanged from the previous quarter.
Shares of Darden Restaurants closed at $116.11 on March 21, up 6.87%.