Shares of Olive Garden owner Darden are surging after earnings crush expectations

Darden shares are surging on Friday morning after earnings crushed expectations.

Darden, which owns Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, is up more than 4.5% on Friday morning after reporting earnings per share of $US0.99 against expectations for earnings of $US0.84.

In the third quarter, Darden’s same-store sales rose 3.6%; revenue totaled $US1.73 billion, in-line with expectations.

Sales at Olive Garden were up 3% to $US957 million in the quarter.

This is the first quarterly report under Gene Lee, who was named full-time CEO in February after serving in that role in an interim capacity since October 2014.

Back in the fall of 2014, Darden came under fire after activist hedge fund Starboard Value issued a massive presentation outlining problems at the company’s Olive Garden restaurant. Among the notable critiques from Starboard, which now controls Darden’s board, was Olive Garden’s take-out packaging and breadsticks.

Starboard was also critical of Darden’s sale of Red Lobster, which the company completed in the summer of 2014.

Year-to-date, Darden shares are up more than 10%.

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