Darden Sales Rise on Red Lobster, Olive Garden Results

Darden Restaurants Inc. (DRI) Thursday said same-store sales at its flagship Red Lobster (search) and Olive Garden (search) restaurant chains rose in March, helped in part by higher prices.

Sales at Red Lobster restaurants open at least 16 months, or same-store sales, rose between 3 percent and 4 percent in the 5 weeks ended April 3, in line with Wall Street analysts' estimates.

Customer traffic at the seafood chain, which Darden has been trying to turn around, was flat to up 1 percent. The average check was up 3 percent, helped by higher prices and changes to the menu.

Same-store sales at Olive Garden were up 9 to 10 percent for the period, ahead of Wall Street estimates calling for a rise of between 2.5 percent and 6 percent, according to analysts' research reports.

Customer traffic at the popular Italian-themed chain was up between 7 and 8 percent, while higher prices helped drive the average check up 2 percent.

Darden shares edged down 1 cent to close at $31 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).