Return-to-work policies may not always make employees happy, but they may make bar owners smile. For example, during the past year, the share of post-work visits to The California-based sports bar and grill Yard House increased by 34.7%. The property also saw an increase in overall foot traffic of 3.9% in July and 0.7% in August.
Those stats were revealed in “Diving into Darden: Summer 2023 Update,” a report by Placer.ai, a location analytics and foot traffic data company, ahead of Darden’s Q1 fiscal earnings report announcement on Sept. 21
The report, which can be viewed here, also discusses the foot traffic performance from April to August of other Darden brands, including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Yard House, Ruth’s Chris, The Capitol Grille, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.
Foot traffic was down overall at full-service restaurants in August at an average of 4.3%, with two exceptions. Both Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse saw less of a decline, respectively, at 2.6% and 0.1%. June and July outperformed August at both chains. Despite an overall slowdown in consumer spending, both brands outperformed the majority in the broad full-service restaurant category.
The bulk of Darden revenue is derived from the Olive Garden and LongHorn brands, which have “established themselves as affordable luxuries, making them particularly appealing during this period when many diners may think twice before dining out,” detailed the report. Darden has expressed intent to add multiple new locations of both chains in 2024.
In fine dining, all three of Darden’s restaurants (Ruth’s Chris, The Capital Grille and Eddie V’s) see traffic spikes around special event dining for holidays, such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Darden’s recently completed the acquisition of the Ruth’s Chris brand in June.
In the mid-priced category, Darden’s Cheddar Scratch Kitchen, which touts “a homey experience heavy on comfort foods,” has proved particularly successful, with 30.1% of repeat customers dining at the restaurant at least twice between April and August 2023. The chain has over 50 locations in Texas alone, with a total of 188 nationwide.
Daren also recently announced the departure of Eugene I. Lee, Jr. as chairman of the board of directors of the company, stating in a release that “ Mr. Lee has decided not to stand for reelection at the Company's 2023 Annual Meeting.” Following the annual meeting, the board will be comprised of nine members moving forward.