Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE:DRI) from a sell rating to a hold rating in a research report released on Monday.

According to Zacks, “Most of Darden's brands have witnessed growth over the past few quarters, given various sales initiatives like simplifying kitchen systems, operational excellence to enhance guest experience, menu innovation along with technology-driven moves. The acquisition of Cheddar's has added an undisputed casual dining value leader to Darden's portfolio of differentiated brands, which is expected to further drive comps. Initiatives to attract guests at Olive Garden, LongHorn and other units also bode well. Further, its efforts to check costs are commendable. Backed by these efforts, Darden’s first-quarter fiscal 2018 earnings topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the 12th consecutive quarter. However, Darden’s shares underperformed its industry in the past six months. Rising labor costs and a non-franchised business model are likely to dampen the company’s profits, while a soft industry backdrop might pressurize comps.”

A number of other equities analysts have also weighed in on the company. ValuEngine raised Darden Restaurants from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report on Friday, September 1st. Raymond James Financial, Inc. reaffirmed a market perform rating on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Monday, July 24th. Royal Bank Of Canada reaffirmed a sector perform rating and set a $90.00 target price (down from $96.00) on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Friday, September 22nd. BidaskClub lowered Darden Restaurants from a strong-buy rating to a buy rating in a research report on Sunday, July 16th. Finally, Maxim Group reaffirmed a hold rating and set a $90.00 target price on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Thursday, September 21st. One equities research analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, seventeen have given a hold rating and nine have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. Darden Restaurants currently has a consensus rating of Hold and an average target price of $87.59.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) last issued its earnings results on Tuesday, September 26th. The restaurant operator reported $0.99 earnings per share for the quarter, hitting analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.99. Darden Restaurants had a return on equity of 26.06% and a net margin of 6.60%. The company had revenue of $1.94 billion for the quarter, compared to analyst estimates of $1.93 billion. During the same period in the prior year, the firm earned $0.88 earnings per share. Darden Restaurants’s revenue for the quarter was up 12.9% on a year-over-year basis.

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The firm also recently announced a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Wednesday, November 1st. Stockholders of record on Tuesday, October 10th were given a dividend of $0.63 per share. This represents a $2.52 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 3.06%. The ex-dividend date of this dividend was Friday, October 6th. Darden Restaurants’s dividend payout ratio is presently 65.12%.

Several hedge funds have recently bought and sold shares of DRI. Janus Henderson Group PLC grew its stake in shares of Darden Restaurants by 3,640.4% during the 2nd quarter. Janus Henderson Group PLC now owns 737,685 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $66,717,000 after acquiring an additional 717,963 shares during the period. APG Asset Management N.V. grew its stake in shares of Darden Restaurants by 34.4% during the 3rd quarter. APG Asset Management N.V. now owns 2,361,712 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $186,056,000 after acquiring an additional 604,364 shares during the period. Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V. grew its stake in shares of Darden Restaurants by 66.8% during the 2nd quarter. Robeco Institutional Asset Management B.V. now owns 1,275,399 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $115,348,000 after acquiring an additional 510,969 shares during the period. BlackRock Inc. grew its stake in shares of Darden Restaurants by 2.7% during the 2nd quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 11,779,249 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $1,065,316,000 after acquiring an additional 314,996 shares during the period. Finally, Balyasny Asset Management LLC grew its stake in shares of Darden Restaurants by 281.8% during the 2nd quarter. Balyasny Asset Management LLC now owns 181,814 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $16,443,000 after acquiring an additional 281,814 shares during the period. Institutional investors own 90.32% of the company’s stock.

Darden Restaurants Company Profile

Darden Restaurants, Inc is a full-service restaurant company. The Company owned and operated 1,536 restaurants through its subsidiaries in the United States and Canada, as of May 29, 2016. The Company’s segments include Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Fine Dining (which includes The Capital Grille, and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Wildfish Seafood Grille (Eddie V’s)) and Other Business (which includes Yard House, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, consumer-packaged goods and franchise revenues).

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Analyst Recommendations for Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI)

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