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3 Reasons Growth Investors Will Love Darden Restaurants (DRI)

Zacks Equity Research
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Investors seek growth stocks to capitalize on above-average growth in financials that help these securities grab the market's attention and produce exceptional returns. However, it isn't easy to find a great growth stock.

By their very nature, these stocks carry above-average risk and volatility. Moreover, if a company's growth story is over or nearing its end, betting on it could lead to significant loss.

However, the task of finding cutting-edge growth stocks is made easy with the help of the Zacks Growth Style Score (part of the Zacks Style Scores system), which looks beyond the traditional growth attributes to analyze a company's real growth prospects.

Our proprietary system currently recommends Darden Restaurants (DRI) as one such stock. This company not only has a favorable Growth Score, but also carries a top Zacks Rank.

Studies have shown that stocks with the best growth features consistently outperform the market. And returns are even better for stocks that possess the combination of a Growth Score of A or B and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) or 2 (Buy).

While there are numerous reasons why the stock of this owner of Olive Garden and other chain restaurants is a great growth pick right now, we have highlighted three of the most important factors below:

Earnings Growth

Earnings growth is arguably the most important factor, as stocks exhibiting exceptionally surging profit levels tend to attract the attention of most investors. And for growth investors, double-digit earnings growth is definitely preferable, and often an indication of strong prospects (and stock price gains) for the company under consideration.

While the historical EPS growth rate for Darden Restaurants is 24.7%, investors should actually focus on the projected growth. The company's EPS is expected to grow 20.2% this year, crushing the industry average, which calls for EPS growth of 4.9%.

Impressive Asset Utilization Ratio

Asset utilization ratio -- also known as sales-to-total-assets (S/TA) ratio -- is often overlooked by investors, but it is an important indicator in growth investing. This metric exhibits how efficiently a firm is utilizing its assets to generate sales.

Right now, Darden Restaurants has an S/TA ratio of 1.52, which means that the company gets $1.52 in sales for each dollar in assets. Comparing this to the industry average of 1.46, it can be said that the company is more efficient.

While the level of efficiency in generating sales matters a lot, so does the sales growth of a company. And Darden Restaurants looks attractive from a sales growth perspective as well. The company's sales are expected to grow 5.4% this year versus the industry average of 3.1%.

Promising Earnings Estimate Revisions

Beyond the metrics outlined above, investors should consider the trend in earnings estimate revisions. A positive trend is a plus here. Empirical research shows that there is a strong correlation between trends in earnings estimate revisions and near-term stock price movements.

There have been upward revisions in current-year earnings estimates for Darden Restaurants. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has surged 1.6% over the past month.

Bottom Line

While the overall earnings estimate revisions have made Darden Restaurants a Zacks Rank #2 stock, it has earned itself a Growth Score of A based on a number of factors, including the ones discussed above.

You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

This combination indicates that Darden Restaurants is a potential outperformer and a solid choice for growth investors.


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