Sunday becomes a day for fine dining amid slow business trips

(Bloomberg) – Sunday isn’t usually a great day for food. But with a downturn in business travel that keeps many white-collar workers closer to home, that is starting to change.

Darden Restaurants Inc., the owner of Capital Grille and Yard House in addition to ubiquitous chains like Olive Garden, is changing operations to meet a recent surge in demand on Sunday nights. Before the pandemic, said Darden chief executive Gene Lee, it was “kind of a disposable day” for the industry.

“Sunday is a really legitimate day now, which we have had to get used to operationally,” he said on a conference call Thursday to discuss quarterly results.

Business travel has been slow to rebound as the delta variant of Covid-19 fuels ongoing outbreaks. With fewer working meals on the road, demand and dollars supporting upscale establishments are redistributed throughout the week.

Darden’s gourmet restaurant chains, while accounting for a relatively small share of its overall revenue, recorded the largest percentage gain in the last quarter of all units, with sales at the same restaurant rising by 85%. As demand is under pressure in New York and other major cities, the Orlando, Florida-based company said it has seen a surge in the suburbs.

Its shares rose 9.3% in New York, the biggest intraday gain in more than nine months, after releasing results and raising its forecast. Darden now expects total sales this year of $ 9.4 billion to $ 9.6 billion, up from previous expectations of no more than $ 9.5 billion.

© 2021 Bloomberg LP

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