Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE:DRI) was upgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “hold” rating to a “buy” rating in a note issued to investors on Tuesday. The brokerage presently has a $83.00 target price on the restaurant operator’s stock. Zacks Investment Research’s price target points to a potential upside of 13.23% from the company’s current price.

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.”

A number of other research firms have also commented on DRI. SunTrust Banks Inc. reduced their price target 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. Maxim Group lowered shares of Darden Restaurants from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating and set a $74.00 price target for the company. in a research report on Monday. RBC Capital Markets restated a “sector perform” rating and set a $70.00 price target on shares of Darden Restaurants in a research report on Wednesday, October 12th. Credit Suisse Group AG downgraded shares of Darden Restaurants from an “outperform” rating to a “neutral” rating and dropped their price objective for the stock from $73.93 to $72.00 in a report on Tuesday. They noted that the move was a valuation call. Finally, Bank of America Corp. reaffirmed a “sell” rating on shares of Darden Restaurants in a report on Wednesday, October 5th. Two equities research analysts have rated the stock with a sell rating, fourteen have given a hold rating and ten have issued a buy rating to the stock. The company currently has an average rating of “Hold” and a consensus target price of $70.79.

Analyst Recommendations for Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI)

Shares of Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) opened at 73.30 on Tuesday. The firm’s 50-day moving average price is $67.20 and its 200 day moving average price is $64.39. Darden Restaurants has a 1-year low of $55.01 and a 1-year high of $74.99. The company has a market capitalization of $9.02 billion, a PE ratio of 23.67 and a beta of 0.23.

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

The business also recently declared a quarterly dividend, which was paid on Tuesday, November 1st. Investors of record on Monday, October 10th were given a dividend of $0.56 per share. This represents a $2.24 annualized dividend and a dividend yield of 3.06%. The ex-dividend date was Wednesday, October 5th. Darden Restaurants’s dividend payout ratio is currently 72.03%.

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

A number of large investors have recently made changes to their positions in DRI. Schroder Investment Management Group increased its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 291.5% in the second quarter. Schroder Investment Management Group now owns 1,725,904 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $109,319,000 after buying an additional 1,285,004 shares in the last quarter. WBI Investments Inc. purchased a new position in shares of Darden Restaurants during the second quarter valued at about $57,165,000. Numeric Investors LLC increased its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 228.9% in the second quarter. Numeric Investors LLC now owns 1,272,100 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $80,575,000 after buying an additional 885,300 shares in the last quarter. Bank of Montreal Can purchased a new position in shares of Darden Restaurants during the second quarter valued at about $53,974,000. Finally, Vanguard Group Inc. increased its position in shares of Darden Restaurants by 5.3% in the second quarter. Vanguard Group Inc. now owns 12,676,075 shares of the restaurant operator’s stock valued at $802,903,000 after buying an additional 640,845 shares in the last quarter. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 88.85% of the company’s stock.

About Darden Restaurants

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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