ORLANDO, FLA. — Net income for Darden Restaurants, Inc., the owner of the Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurant brands, rose to $94.3 million, equal to 68c per share on the common stock during the first quarter ended Aug. 30. The results are an improvement over the first quarter of fiscal 2009 when the company’s net income was $82.1 million, or 59c per share.

Sales from continuing operations during the quarter were $1,734 million compared with $1,774 million for the previous year.

Clarence Otis, chairman and chief executive officer of the company, said Darden benefited during the quarter from favorable food and energy costs, but noted the sales environment was challenging.

For the fiscal year Darden Restaurants anticipates earnings per share in the range of $2.59 to $2.85.

"Macro-economic conditions and full-service restaurant industry sales levels in our fiscal first quarter were softer than we anticipated," said Brad Richmond, chief financial officer. "As a result, we are reducing the lower end of the range of our blended same-restaurant sales we expect this fiscal year.

"At the same time, food costs were also lower in the first quarter than initially expected, and are likely to remain more muted for the balance of the year than we previously anticipated. And, we are finding additional cost management opportunities as well. The net result is that our fiscal year earnings per share outlook remains unchanged. Given industry sales trends, however, at this time the lower half of the diluted net earnings per share range we’ve provided is more likely than the upper half of the range."