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Olive Garden turnaround helps lift Darden profits

Whether Olive Garden has started to salt its pasta water or make its noodles less scotta and more al dente, one thing is clear: the promised Olive Garden renaissance is underway, and already boosting the bottom line of its corporate parent, Darden Restaurants. Darden reported third quarter fiscal 2015 earnings results Friday morning that met Wall Street expectations on revenue and beat them on profit, news that was good enough to send Darden shares to a new 52-week high in early Friday trading.

Darden — which operates restaurants like Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze and more — reported $1.73 billion in third quarter revenue, up 7% year-over-year and meeting the analyst consensus. Net income for the quarter came in at $133.8 million, resulting in earnings of $1.01 per share. Including one-time items, earnings per share surged 39% to 99 cents per share, easily beating the 84-cent analyst consensus.

“We delivered solid improvement in our financial results this quarter thanks to the hard work our teams are doing to grow same-restaurant sales and control costs,” Darden CEO Gene Lee said in a statement Friday morning. “Our strategy of getting back to basics and elevating the food, service, and atmosphere in our restaurants in order to deliver the best possible guest experience is driving these sales and profitability improvements. I’m proud of the increased engagement and effort of our teams and the momentum we have created, but we still have progress to make.”

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