Darden Restaurant Recovery

We checked back in on some of Darden Restaurants’s top brands to see how the recovery is going thus far into the new year. 

Recovery in Progress 

When looking at year-over-year visits from early 2020, it’s clear that Darden was poised for a strong year, with four of its top restaurants showing year-over-year growth in both January and February 2020. The Yard House was leading the way with year over year visit increases of 14.1% and 22.7% respectively for those two months, but Olive Garden, Cheddar’s and LongHorn Steakhouse were seeing very impressive jumps.

And even with visits bottoming out in April, traffic for the four restaurants was recovering relatively quickly in the months that followed. In fact, visit growth for each brand continued to climb back to normalcy, month-to-month until November, where each saw a slight dip in traffic coming after a resurgence of COVID cases.  

And while the dip might look severe, this is actually on trend for the wider dining category, which saw an overall decrease from 26.7% in October to 32.4% in November. 

2021 Rebound? 

Taking a closer look at the end of 2020 and the start to 2021 shows a promising pattern.  Each restaurant showed significant year-over-year visit growth from December into January 2021. And while there was a decline for most restaurants from January to February, this was likely caused by fewer days in the month, than the previous year as well as the extreme weather conditions most of the south and northeast faced at the beginning of the month.  

Visits for all but Yard House declined week-over-week throughout January and even into February. But by the week of February 22nd, when most of the weather conditions seemed to have settled, all restaurants were on a path to recovery with all recording their best weeks since the beginning of January.  LongHorn Steakhouse pulled within 2020 range with visits down just 12.7% for that week.

The dining sector was arguably one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic. And, with a resurgence of COVID cases toward the end of the year and severe weather at the start of 2021 , it hasn’t been an easy path to recovery for the sit-down dining industry. 

But, if the latest numbers are any indication of what’s to come for Darden, the portfolio could be poised for a strong and impressively rapid 2021 comeback. 

How will the rest of the year play out?  Check back in with Placer.ai blog to find out.

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