Darden Hits All-Time High, Raises Dividend by 12.5%

A great income play out of Orlando, Florida.

Darden Restaurant's shares are soaring, after the CEO of the company — which owns chains including Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse — said that the casual dining industry's destruction at the hands of millennials has been over-hyped.

“Millennials still want to come to restaurants,” Gene Lee, Darden Restaurant's CEO, said in a call with investors on Tuesday. “I know you all don't think millennials go to casual dining restaurants, but 30% of all our guests are millennials.”

Millennials make up roughly 24% of the total US population, meaning that these younger diners account for a disproportionately large proportion of Darden Restaurants' customers, something Lee says is due to chains' ability to offer menu items that customers are interested in at the correct price point.

Attracting younger customers is paying off for the company. Six out of seven of Darden's restaurant brands grew same-stores sales in the fourth quarter, with the exception being Seasons 52. The company's two biggest chains, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, increased same-stores sales by 4.4% and 3.5% in the quarter, respectively.

The company's shares soared after reporting fourth quarter earnings on Tuesday, hitting an all-time high of $95.22.

Photo: Markets Insider

Full story at Business Insider

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