Sunday Becomes a Day for Fine Dining Amid Slow Business Travel
(Bloomberg) -- Sunday isn’t typically a big day for fine dining. But with a business travel slowdown keeping many white-collar workers closer to home, that’s starting to change.
Darden Restaurants Inc., the owner of the Capital Grille and Yard House in addition to ubiquitous chains like Olive Garden, is shifting its operations to accommodate a recent surge in demand on Sunday evenings. Prior to the pandemic, Darden Chief Executive Officer Gene Lee said, it was “kind of a throwaway day” for the industry.
“Sundays are a real legitimate day now, which operationally has taken some adjustments for us to get used to,” he said Thursday on a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings.
Business travel has been slow to rebound as the delta variant of Covid-19 fuels continued outbreaks. With fewer work meals on the road, the demand and dollars supporting high-end establishments are being redistributed throughout the week.
Darden’s fine-dining chains, while representing a relatively small portion of its overall revenue, notched the biggest percentage gain last quarter of any unit, with same-restaurant sales surging 85%. While demand is under pressure in New York and other major cities, the Orlando, Florida-based company said it has experienced a big uptick in the suburbs.
Its shares rose as much as 9.3% in New York, the biggest intraday gain in more than nine months, after reporting results and boosting its forecast. Darden now expects total sales this year of $9.4 billion to $9.6 billion, up from a prior expectation of no more than $9.5 billion.
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