An Olive Garden restaurant in Times Square in New York

Richard Levine | Corbis | Getty Images

Olive Garden’s parent company Darden Restaurants said Tuesday that more than 65% of its dining rooms will be open with limited capacity by the end of May.

Shares of the company fell less than 1% in premarket trading. The stock, which has a market value of $9.74 billion, has fallen 31% so far in 2020. 

As of Sunday, nearly half of Darden restaurant dining rooms have reopened with limited capacity. 

The Orlando, Florida-based company closed all of its dining rooms on March 20 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Full-service restaurants have been hit the hardest by the virus, leading Darden and many others to pivot to takeout to support their businesses.

Reopening dining rooms, starting April 27, appears to have lifted the company’s same-store sales. For the week ended April 26, same-store sales plunged 60.1%. During the week ended May 17, Darden’s same-store sales fell just 49%. The company’s same-store sales have fallen 47.9% so far in its fiscal fourth quarter, as of Sunday.

“Early signs show that our loyal guests are grateful for the opportunity to dine-in with us, and they appreciate the added safety measures we have implemented. At the same time, our To Go business remains strong,” CEO Gene Lee said in a statement.

New safety measures at its locations include requiring employees to wear masks and deep cleaning the restaurants daily. The company is asking customers to wear masks when they aren’t at their table and to maintain six feet of distance from other customers.

As it reopens dining rooms, the company is bringing back some of its furloughed hourly workers. 

Darden also said that it fully repaid its $750 million credit facility on May 5, citing “increased confidence in our cash flow projections and stabilization in the credit markets.” The company still has about $700 million in cash on hand.

Source Article