Do Darden's Earnings Signal a Broader Restaurant Recovery?

Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI) released its fiscal first-quarter financial results before the markets opened on Thursday. The company posted $0.28 in earnings per share (EPS) and $1.53 billion in revenue. That compares with consensus estimates of $0.05 in EPS and $1.56 billion in revenue, as well as the $1.38 per share and $2.13 billion reported in the same period of last year.

During the latest quarter, total sales decreased 28.4% year over year, driven by negative blended same-restaurant sales of 29.0% and partially offset by the addition of 14 net new restaurants. In terms of its brands, Darden reported same-restaurant sales as follows:

  • Olive Garden, −28.2%
  • Longhorn Steakhouse, −18.1%
  • Fine Dining, −39.1%
  • Other Business, −39.0%

On the books, Darden’s cash and cash equivalents totaled $654.6 million at the end of the quarter, down from $763.3 million at the end of the previous fiscal year. Considering the steadily improving cash flows in the quarter, and increased confidence in cash flow projections, the firm fully repaid its $270 million term loan in mid-August.

As it stands now, Darden has access to $1.4 billion of liquidity with $655 million of cash on hand and $750 million available through its credit facility.

Looking ahead to the fiscal second quarter, the company expects to see EPS in the range of $0.65 to $0.75 and total sales of roughly 82% of the prior year. Consensus estimates call for $0.35 in EPS and $1.78 billion in revenue for the quarter.

The board of directors declared that it has reinstated a quarterly dividend of $0.30 per share on common stock, which will be payable November 2, to shareholders of record at the close of October 9.

Darden stock traded up about 6% on Thursday, at $95.54 in a 52-week range of $26.15 to $124.01. The consensus price target is $92.67.