What Concept Could Darden Restaurants Acquire Next

By Mark Kalinowski Published on February 12, 2019 at 12:00 AM

At the recent ICR Conference 2019, management of Darden Restaurants (DRI; Not Rated) — owner and operator of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, and several other full-service restaurant concepts — stated that on the acquisition front, “$300 million in system sales is the lowest we’d look at,” while “$750 million to $1 billion would be better” as “we’d want any acquisition to matter.” Management also made clear that it would intend to be disciplined in terms of what it would pay for any potential acquisition: “a lot of things would have to line up… the right vehicle being available at the right price… we’re not going to chase something.” Given this context, what are some restaurant-concept possibilities that Darden might look at acquiring, if they were to become available to Darden at the right price? This report briefly examines some specific possibilities, including First Watch, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, and Black Bear Diner. Not coincidentally, these three privately-held concepts ranked #1, #2, and #3 in terms of their U.S. system sales growth rate during 2017 amongst all full-service restaurant concepts of size $200 million or larger. We note the following:

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