Darden Restaurants (NYSE: DRI) which owns Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, and several other restaurant chains, had a solid second quarter in its fiscal 2017.

The company reported that total sales from continuing operations increased 2.1% to $1.64 billion while diluted net earnings per share from continuing operations increased 178.3% to $0.64. In addition, it reported a system-wide same-store sales increase of 1.7%, led by Oliver Garden's 2.6% increase, Eddie V's 2.7% gain, and Bahama Breeze's 2.6% rise.

"We had another strong quarter with same-restaurant sales growth significantly outperforming the casual dining industry benchmarks, especially at Olive Garden," said CEO Gene Lee in the earnings release.  "We remain laser-focused on our operating philosophy rooted in food, service and atmosphere, and creating memorable experiences for our guests."

Despite those numbers, Lee was not without his concerns. During the company's earnings call he expressed a worry that non-food spending, specifically paying for services like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) was hurting business for restaurants.

What did the CEO say?

"There are other new necessities, whether it's smartphones, their cable bill, their Netflix bill," Lee said, according to Nation's Restaurant News. "Those have all increased significantly over the years. People are making choices. They're not just confined to food."

That's just a theory, but it can't be denied that new costs have popped up for consumers over the last few years. Netflix is just one example of that. The costs of mobile phones have increased, and it's only relatively recently that people began commonly paying for broadband at home.

Is this hurting restaurants?

Rising gas prices are one of the traditional costs that have been pointed to as a drag on the restaurant business. When people must pay more at the pump, the theory goes, it makes the idea of leaving the house (and burning gas) to eat out less palatable.

It's reasonable to think that on some level, new bills for services like Netflix, and Hulu -- along with rising other costs -- could be cutting into the disposable income families might have once spent at restaurants. What those new bills do not change, however, is that people still need to eat. Lee is probably right that these issues are part of why the overall restaurant industry has suffered in 2016, but he is likely also right about the solution.

"We have to create environments people want to come to," he said during the earnings call.

While it might be harder to win diners' business in an era of stretched budgets, it's still possible. That's actually something Darden showed with its Q2 results.

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Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned.

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