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Darden enjoyed solid share price percentage gains in 2010
, in part because it falls under West's umbrella category of "upper-mid-scale-casual" restaurants, a segment of the industry that focused more on customer service -- rather than deep discounting -- to get penny-pinched customers in the door this year.
That focus means Darden, along with industry peers like
Texas Roadhouse(TXRH) and
Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores(CBRL), is well-positioned coming out of the Recession, West said.
The operator of Capital Grille restaurant brands, among others, announced in October that it inked a franchise deal with
Kuwait Food Company Americana to set up international chain restaurants of its Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Long Horn Steak House brands in the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
In September, Darden reaffirmed its fiscal 2011 guidance, saying it expects earnings per share to grow 14% to 17% year-over-year, or between $3.26 and $3.35 per share. Full-year revenue is expected to grow in a range between 5.5% and 6.5%, to a range between $7.5 billion and $7.57 billion.