Darden CEO Says Consumers Have Not Changed As Coronavirus Cases Increase

A customer carries a take-out bag outside Darden Restaurants Inc.’s Olive Garden restaurant in Clarksville, Indiana, USA. USA, Thursday March 5, 2020.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | fake pictures

Darden Restaurants CEO Gene Lee said the company has not seen any change in consumer behavior, even as Covid-19 cases start to rise in some states.

“We have not seen changes in our business trends, and the states that are obviously starting to increase, we are concerned, we are focused on that,” Lee told analysts Thursday in the company’s earnings call.

“You know, maybe something will change tomorrow, I don’t know, but right now there is nothing we can say that can add value to this issue,” he said later.

Wednesday set a record for the highest day for new coronavirus cases in the United States, according to an NBC News count. Southern and western states have reported an increase in new diagnoses in the past week, but some governors are expressing resistance to reimpose blockades or restrictions.

Lee said that Darden, owner of Olive Garden, could re-move off-site if necessary, but that the transition would happen on a smaller scale. Darden has reopened 91% of dining rooms with limited capacity.

Darden’s shares rose 6% in morning trading after the company reported its fourth-quarter fiscal results. While it was lost and net sales fell 43%, business is expected to rebound as dining rooms reopen and states relax locks.