Perhaps Darden Restaurants
Sound tasty? I didn't think so, and Darden probably doesn't need my advice anyway. It's doing quite well growing its ubiquitous Red Lobster and Olive Garden concepts on its own, not to mention burgeoning brands including Bahama Breeze, Smokey Bones, and most recently, Seasons 52.
Demonstrating that investing in spinoffs can prove lucrative, Darden shares are up more than five times after escaping General Mills'
The secret recipe has been to keep older stores updated with fresh interior decors and innovative menu items. The Red Lobster store count and overall growth have stagnated somewhat, but the Olive Garden expansion continues, driving overall growth at Darden. These flagship brands also provide the stability and capital to fund the next generation of concepts, though with mixed results to date. Still, overall revenue growth has averaged in the high single digits over the past five years, and management has been able to leverage that into double-digit earnings and operating cash flow growth.
That trend continued during Darden's fiscal second-quarter performance, released yesterday. Olive Garden posted a same-store sales increase for the 49th consecutive quarter, while Red Lobster posted a very modest comps gain. Total sales growth was unspectacular at 4.5%, but expense control and share repurchases contributed to a 17.1% bump in diluted earnings per share.
Darden is the nation's largest publicly traded casual dining company. The space is crowded, including Cheesecake Factory
For related Foolishness:
Foolanthropy is celebrating its 10th year! To learn more about our five Foolish charities or to make a donation, visit www.foolanthropy.com.
Whatever your taste in investing, you'll find a Foolish newsletter to hit the spot. Sample any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.
Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further.