Darden Restaurants, Inc. (DRI)

DRI 
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Industry: Consumer Services
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Darden Restaurants (DRI)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

September 28, 2011 8:30 am ET

Executives

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

Eugene I. Lee - President of Specialty Restaurant Group

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

Matthew Stroud - Former Vice President of Investor Relations

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

Analysts

Keith Siegner - Crédit Suisse AG, Research Division

David Palmer - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Alvin C. Concepcion - Citigroup Inc, Research Division

Phillip Juhan - BMO Capital Markets U.S.

Jonathan R. Komp - Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division

Mitchell J. Speiser - Buckingham Research Group, Inc.

Brad Ludington - KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., Research Division

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

Jeffrey Andrew Bernstein - Barclays Capital, Research Division

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

Larry Miller - RBC Capital Markets, LLC, Research Division

Jason West - Deutsche Bank AG, Research Division

Presentation

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by, and welcome to the first quarter earnings release. [Operator Instructions] As a reminder, today's conference is being recorded. I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Matthew Stroud. Please go ahead.

Matthew Stroud

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. 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 businesses including healthcare reform; labor and insurance costs; technology failures; failure to execute our 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; 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 second quarter earnings and same-restaurant sales for fiscal September, October and November 2011 on Friday, December 16, 2011, before the market opens with a conference call shortly thereafter. Also, we plan to hold our fiscal 2012 Analyst and Institutional Investor Meeting on Friday, February 24, 2012, in New York City. Additional details will be available soon.

We released first quarter earnings this morning. These results were available on PR Newswire and other wire services. We recognize that most of you reviewed our first quarter earnings results, 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 and discuss our financial outlook for fiscal 2012, as well as discuss our brand-by-brand operating performance summary.

Brad will now provide additional detail about our financial results for the first quarter. Drew will review our operating performance of our larger brands. Gene will discuss the Specialty Restaurant Group, and he will be followed by Clarence, who will have some final remarks. We'll then respond to your questions. Brad?

C. Bradford Richmond

Thank you, Matthew, and good morning. Darden's total sales from continuing operations increased 7.5% in the first quarter to $1.94 billion. This strong top line performance compares to an estimated plus 2.2% total sales growth for the Knapp-Track benchmark, excluding Darden. So as you can see, we had meaningful share growth.

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