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Digging Into Darden: Q2 2024 Update

Bracha Arnold
June 13, 2024
Digging Into Darden: Q2 2024 Update

Darden Restaurants, Inc. operates a portfolio that includes some of the biggest names in full-service dining, including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Bahama Breeze, and Eddie V’s Prime Seafood.

How are these restaurants performing as Q3 2024 approaches? We took a closer look at the location analytics to find out which restaurant chains are thriving in today’s challenging economic climate. 

Key Takeaways:

  • In Q1 2024, year-over-year (YoY) visits to Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen – the three largest restaurants in Darden’s portfolio – increased 1.0%, 3.8%, and 0.1%, respectively.
  • Darden also operates several restaurants with a smaller footprint than its major brands. And these chains also saw positive growth in Q1 2024, with visits to Yard House, Eddie V's Prime Seafood, Ruth's Chris Steak House, and Bahama Breeze growing by 4.2%, 9.7%, 5.0%, and 2.5%, respectively. 
  • Though YoY foot traffic slowed somewhat in April 2024, all seven chains saw YoY visit growth in May.  
  • Visits to all Darden restaurants spiked on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, including to sports bar Yard House, highlighting the importance of these holidays across a variety of full-service dining concepts.

Getting Back to the Garden

Darden’s three largest restaurant chains – Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen – are some of the best-known names in casual, full-service dining. These chains have a strong presence across the country and have experienced mainly positive YoY foot traffic this year so far. 

Although foot traffic was lower YoY in January and April 2024, these dips can be attributed to external factors, such as January’s inclement weather and an April calendar shift (i.e. the timing of Easter, as well as the extra Saturday in April 2023). And in May the three chains quickly rebounded, ending the month with respective YoY visit increases of 2.4%, 6.4%, and 2.3%.

Smaller Brands Showing Visit Strength

Darden operates various smaller brands offering different dining styles and price points, ranging from upscale options like Eddie V’s and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to more casual spots like Bahama Breeze and Yard House. These smaller chains also experienced strong visitation patterns in early 2024 – with May YoY visits up between 3.9% and 8.5%.

Special Calendar Days Drive Visits

Darden’s strong February and May showings were likely fueled, in part, by two distinctly important days on the Darden restaurant calendar: Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. 

In absolute terms, Olive Garden – Darden’s largest chain by far – drew the most visits on both holidays as compared to a January 1, 2024 baseline, claiming the top spot this year as America’s favorite Mother’s Day destination. But on a relative basis, Darden’s premium brands Eddie V’s and Ruth Chris experienced the biggest visit spikes, as people splurged on celebratory outings. And laid-back chain Bahama Breeze saw a sustained visit boost from Valentine’s Day through Mother’s Day, likely owing to its strong presence in Florida – making it an attractive destination for the snowbirds and vacationers who visit the state during the winter.

And surprisingly, even casual dining venue Yard House – known for its beer and sports atmosphere rather than romantic setting – experienced a Valentine’s Day visit boost. This suggests that there is a tangible benefit from these holidays across a wide range of dining styles – and restaurant operators can use these insights to encourage visits on such occasions.

No Missed-Steaks Here

Darden continues to attract customers to its restaurants in spite of a challenging economy by offering a variety of dining choices and capitalizing on popular dining-out occasions such as Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Will the company’s visit growth continue to trend upward as 2024 wears on? 

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