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Darden (DRI) Beats Q3 Earnings & Revenues, Ups 2016 View

Darden Restaurants Inc. DRI posted strong fiscal third-quarter 2016 results supported by positive comps posted by all the brands. Both earnings and revenues beat the respective Zacks Consensus Estimate. In fact, this quarter marked the sixth consecutive earnings beat for the company. The company also raised its earnings and comps guidance for fiscal 2016 for the second consecutive quarter.

Earnings and Revenue Discussion

Adjusted earnings per share were $1.21, marginally beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.20 by approximately 0.8%. Earnings jumped 22.2% on a year-over-year basis on the back of higher revenues, positive comps and lower operating expenses.

Adjusted earnings exclude costs related to the real estate plan implementation and debt retirement costs.

Total revenue of $1.85 billion also beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.84 billion by 0.5% and increased 6.7% year over year. Year-over-year improvement reflects comps growth at all the company’s segments.

Behind the Headline Numbers

Beginning fiscal fourth-quarter 2015, Darden began reporting under four new segments: Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Fine Dining, which includes The Capital Grille and Eddie V's, and Other Business. The Other Business segment includes Yard House, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, consumer packaged goods, and franchise revenues.

The company posted comps growth of 6.2% in fiscal third quarter driven by positive comps at all its brands, which compared favorably with comps growth of 2.9% in the preceding quarter.

Sales at Olive Garden were up 6.6% year over year to $1.02 billion backed by an improvement in comps. Comps at Olive Garden were up 6.8%, comparing favorably with prior-quarter comps growth of 2.8%, driven by 4.8% rise in traffic, 0.9% improvement in pricing and higher menu mix of 1.1%.

Moreover, this marked the sixth consecutive quarter of comps growth for the brand since fourth-quarter fiscal 2013. It seems that the company’s efforts to grow and develop its chains are yielding positive results. In order to revive traffic growth and support margin expansion, the company is working on its Olive Garden Brand Renaissance plan that has helped in improving comps. The plan includes simplifying kitchen systems, developing new core menu items and revamping the restaurant design.

Sales at Fine Dining increased 5.4% to $146 million, with comps at The Capital Grille rose 5.3%, better than the prior-quarter comps growth of 0.9%. Meanwhile, Eddie V's posted comps growth of 4.1%, higher than 3.2% improvement recorded in the preceding quarter.

Revenues from Other Business increased 10.7% year over year to $256.2 million. Comps grew 3.9%, 5.7% and 9.9% at Yard House, Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze, respectively. Comps at all three concepts compared favorably with the prior-quarter levels.

At LongHorn Steakhouse, sales were up 5.4% to $425.5 million driven by positive comps. Comps at LongHorn Steakhouse increased 5.2% supported by 1.8% traffic growth and 2.2% improvement in pricing, and positive menu mix of 1.2%. Comps were better than the prior-quarter comps growth of 3.6%.

Fiscal 2016 Guidance Raised

Darden increased the earnings per share guidance for fiscal 2016 to a range of $3.48 to $3.52 from the $3.25 to $3.35 range. The updated outlook takes into account an expected increase in comps growth. The range is far above the year-ago figure of $2.56 at the mid-point. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is in line with the lower end of the raised guidance.

Also, the company raised the comps growth expectation to 3–3.5% from a range of 2.5% to 3%.

Darden sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Key Picks in the Sector

Other stocks in the restaurant industry that can be considered are Diversified Restaurant Holdings, Inc. SAUC, Carrols Restaurant Group, Inc. TAST and Dave & Buster's Entertainment, Inc. PLAY. All the three stocks have the same Zacks Rank as Darden.

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DARDEN RESTRNT (DRI): Free Stock Analysis Report
CARROLS RESTRNT (TAST): Free Stock Analysis Report
DAVE&BUSTRS ENT (PLAY): Free Stock Analysis Report
DIVERSIFIED RST (SAUC): Free Stock Analysis Report
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