NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Darden Restaurants' (DRI - Get Report) 2017 fiscal first quarter earnings got a boost from the improving performance of its casual Italian restaurant chain Olive Garden, Fox Business' Nicole Petallides reported on Tuesday morning's "Varney & Company."

Before today's opening bell, Darden posted earnings of 88 cents per share, beating analysts' estimates of 82 cents per share. Revenue increased by 1.6% year-over-year to $1.71 billion, slightly below analysts' estimates of $1.72 billion.

Olive Garden's 52-week performance is "outpacing everything from Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (RUTH)," Petallides pointed out. 

The improved results come after Darden was taken over by activist investor Starboard Value in 2014 because of dragging sales.

Over about 18 months, Starboard made significant improvements to Olive Garden, such as reducing the cost of food and streamlining its menu, noted Petallides. It also asked the restaurant to improve the taste of its bread sticks. 

"So they really are turning this one around, and you can see it's up about 3% right now," she concluded.

This past April, Starboard CEO Jeffrey Smith was able to step down from his position as Darden chairman because he felt Olive Garden was on a good track again. 

For fiscal 2017, Darden raised its guidance to between $3.87 per share and $3.97 per share from between $3.80 per share to $3.90 per share. 

Shares of Darden were higher in late-morning trading on Tuesday. 

Separately, TheStreet Ratings objectively rated this stock according to its "risk-adjusted" total return prospect over a 12-month investment horizon. Not based on the news in any given day, the rating may differ from Jim Cramer's view or that of this articles's author.

TheStreet Ratings team rates Darden Restaurants as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that the team rates.

You can view the full analysis from the report here: DRI

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