ORLANDO-Darden Restaurants Inc., which bills itself as the largest seafood restaurant chain in the world with 1,139 outlets, is proving seafood, pasta and barbecue all have the same colors–green, as in dollars.

The publicly-traded local firm reported first-quarter profit of $56.9 million on sales of $1.02 billion. That performance is up from $47.3 million in net earnings on $929.4 million in sales for first quarter 1999.

The company’s per-diluted share earnings were a record 46 cents, up from 35 cents in the same period last year. Darden operates the Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Bahama Breeze and Smokey Bones BBQ chains.

Olive Garden posted a same-restaurant sales growth of 8.7%, its 24th consecutive quarter of growth. Red Lobster had a 6.2% same-restaurant growth for the 11th straight quarter. Bahama Breeze and Smokey Bones individual sales are still being compiled.

In a prepared statement, Darden chairman/CEO Joe Lee called the first-quarter performance “fantastic.” He says the company is considering opening new restaurants at an undetermined date. Darden’s stock on the New York Stock Exchange is trading at $17.31 per share.

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