Zacks Investment Research upgraded shares of Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:DRI) from a hold rating to a buy rating in a research report report published on Wednesday. They currently have $83.00 price objective on the restaurant operator’s stock.

According to Zacks, “Most of Darden’s brands have been witnessing growth over the past few quarters on the back of sales initiatives like simplifying kitchen systems, improving in-restaurant execution to enhance guest experience menu innovation and technology-driven moves. Moreover, the company’s Olive Garden Brand Renaissance plan – aimed to turn around its business – has started reaping benefits. Also, the company’s efforts to check costs are commendable. Backed by these positives, Darden’s first-quarter fiscal 2017 earnings beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the eighth consecutive quarter. The company also raised its guidance for fiscal 2017 earnings. Meanwhile, initiatives undertaken to attract guests at LongHorn and other units also bode well. However, rising labor costs and a non-franchised business model might dampen the company’s profits, while a soft consumer spending environment could keep comps under pressure.”

Other equities research analysts have also recently issued research reports about the stock. Stifel Nicolaus cut shares of Darden Restaurants from a hold rating to a sell rating and set a $53.00 price target for the company. in a research report on Tuesday, July 26th. SunTrust Banks Inc. decreased their target price on shares of Darden Restaurants from $70.00 to $67.00 and set a neutral rating for the company in a research report on Wednesday, October 5th. Canaccord Genuity started coverage on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Monday, August 22nd. They set a buy rating and a $74.00 target price for the company. Robert W. Baird reissued a neutral rating on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Thursday, September 8th. Finally, BMO Capital Markets reissued a hold rating and set a $64.00 target price on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Thursday, September 1st. Two research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, twelve have assigned a hold rating and twelve have given a buy rating to the company’s stock. The company currently has an average rating of Hold and a consensus target price of $70.63.

Shares of Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) opened at 74.49 on Wednesday. The company has a market cap of $9.17 billion, a P/E ratio of 24.05 and a beta of 0.23. The firm has a 50-day moving average of $65.72 and a 200-day moving average of $64.11. Darden Restaurants has a 52-week low of $55.01 and a 52-week high of $74.73.

Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) last announced its quarterly earnings results on Tuesday, October 4th. The restaurant operator reported $0.88 earnings per share for the quarter, topping the consensus estimate of $0.82 by $0.06. Darden Restaurants had a net margin of 5.73% and a return on equity of 24.97%. The firm earned $1.71 billion during the quarter. During the same period in the previous year, the company posted $0.68 EPS. Darden Restaurants’s revenue for the quarter was up 1.6% on a year-over-year basis. Equities research analysts forecast that Darden Restaurants will post $3.93 earnings per share for the current year.

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, November 1st. Shareholders of record on Monday, October 10th were given a dividend of $0.56 per share. This represents a $2.24 dividend on an annualized basis and a dividend yield of 3.01%. The ex-dividend date was Wednesday, October 5th. Darden Restaurants’s dividend payout ratio is presently 72.03%.

In other Darden Restaurants news, SVP Danielle L. Kirgan sold 28,127 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction dated Monday, October 10th. The shares were sold at an average price of $62.47, for a total transaction of $1,757,093.69. Following the completion of the sale, the senior vice president now directly owns 15,989 shares in the company, valued at $998,832.83. The sale was disclosed in a document filed with the SEC, which is available through this hyperlink. Also, SVP Danielle L. Kirgan sold 8,780 shares of Darden Restaurants stock in a transaction dated Tuesday, October 11th. The shares were sold at an average price of $62.47, for a total transaction of $548,486.60. Following the sale, the senior vice president now owns 15,989 shares of the company’s stock, valued at $998,832.83. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Company insiders own 0.68% of the company’s stock.

Large investors have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. Renaissance Technologies LLC boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 80.8% in the first quarter. Renaissance Technologies LLC now owns 175,900 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $11,662,000 after buying an additional 78,600 shares during the period. Panagora Asset Management Inc. boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 2,413.3% in the first quarter. Panagora Asset Management Inc. now owns 250,097 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $16,581,000 after buying an additional 240,146 shares during the period. Squarepoint Ops LLC boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 216.2% in the first quarter. Squarepoint Ops LLC now owns 52,012 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $3,448,000 after buying an additional 35,565 shares during the period. First Republic Investment Management Inc. boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 118.6% in the first quarter. First Republic Investment Management Inc. now owns 9,985 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $663,000 after buying an additional 5,417 shares during the period. Finally, BlueMountain Capital Management LLC boosted its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 349.6% in the first quarter. BlueMountain Capital Management LLC now owns 18,331 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock worth $1,215,000 after buying an additional 14,254 shares during the period. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 92.50% of the company’s stock.

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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).

5 Day Chart for NYSE:DRI

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