Darden Restaurants Inc. plans to focus more on value in promotions for its Olive Garden chain as the company tries to extend the recent growth it is seeing in the casual-dining industry.
Casual-dining restaurants have been hurt by the economic downturn and higher commodity costs; however, Darden noted that recent industry data suggest restaurant sales are improving. To help build on that trend, Darden unveiled a plan Friday to target households with annual incomes below $60,000, a group that has pulled back on its share of casual-dining visits in recent years.
“We believe the ability to offer greater affordability to guests without eroding margins will continue to be very important going forward,” President and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Madsen said Friday on a conference call following the company’s quarterly report. Late Thursday, Darden reported a 19% increase in fourth-quarter earnings on a 6.8% increase in revenue.