Stock Report: Darden Restaurants (DRI)

Takeaway: We added DRI to Investing Ideas on the short side on 2/16.

Stock Report: Darden Restaurants (DRI) - HE DRI table 2 19 16



Where do we go from here?


Having pulled all the levers to create shareholder value, it’s now down to the facts about how Darden's core business is performing. There are cracks in the Olive Garden story and the brand is not as healthy as the consensus believes.


Major capital investments are needed:


Olive Garden has been in need of a major remodel since FY2007. While the sales trends at Olive Garden have improved slightly, to sustain long-term growth the concept is in need of a major overhaul which will be expensive. As sales trends rollover at the brand, the need for significant capital investment will become more evident.


The real numbers suggest multiple compression:


Under the new business model the company is posting peak margins. In addition to significant capital investment, the company will need to invest in incremental food and labor costs to drive positive traffic across the enterprise.




Management doesn't seem to be thinking about Olive Garden the right way:


During the 2Q16 call DRI management was asked about unit growth plans:

  • CEO Gene Lee stated, “I think we’re going to get back on a path where we’re opening somewhere between 8 to 12 Olive Gardens a year, so that will be a big boost to our numbers. Olive Garden is still an incredible investment from a new restaurant perspective. There will be some cannibalization, but we think that Dave and the team have the strategy to identify trade areas that could support Olive Garden, but without so much cannibalization that we can’t make the returns work.”
  • He went on, “Obviously, we’re going to continue to push Yard House. And we think LongHorn can get back up to low double digits also. And so with those types of new restaurant development, we can firmly be in that 2% to 3% [unit growth] range.”

Management’s thinking about unit growth is clearly evolving as the year goes on, and yet, Olive Garden’s top line performance continues to struggle. Plus, they have gone from vocalizing that they will open 1 to 2 Olive Gardens a year, to 8 to 10, which implies 1.2% unit growth.


Additionally, they are not spending aggressively on fixing the business:


Olive Garden’s last remodel was completed at the end of fiscal year 2001, when Joe Lee held the CEO position and Clarence Otis was the CFO. Management defended the remodels during 2002, although they struggled to increased their alcohol sales, which were supposed to be a benefit of the remodels.


In fiscal 2011, management started early remodeling tests on Olive Garden. Olive Garden has about 400 older RevItalia restaurant models that are in dire need of remodeling. In 2011, they remodeled 35 to test the effectiveness of the prototype. Clarence Otis successfully kicked the remodel can down the road until he met his demise in 2014:

  • 2011 Annual Report: “Olive Garden will begin remodeling more than 400 early restaurants to be consistent with the Tuscan Farmhouse design of the restaurants opened in the past six years.”
  • 2012 Analyst Meeting 2/23/12: “Olive Garden now testing a remodel program for 430 pre-Tuscan Farmhouse restaurants that were built before March 2000.”
  • 3Q13 Earnings call transcript: “Olive Garden is preparing to implement their remodel program in the second half of this fiscal year.”

To date, Olive Garden has done 32 remodels, and is far behind schedule, on a massive remodel project. Clearly, no one wants to remodel the Olive Garden concept because it will be disastrous for earnings.




The Olive Garden is still not fixed and is in desperate need of a large capital investment to turn around their negative trends. Until management realizes this the business will continue to decline and the stock will go with it. Determining what management will do in the TAIL duration is not possible, and we don’t like to participate in that guessing game. What we know now is that Olive Garden is not fixed and management does not currently have a plan to rectify the situation.


Additionally, Darden is a multi-concept restaurant company and in our past experience it is very difficult for management teams to allocate capital effectively amongst its brands. On one hand you have high growth concepts such as Yard House, and on the other you have Olive Garden which makes up roughly 56% of sales and is in need of cash just to prevent declines. We look forward to following the story over the next couple of years to see what course of action management takes to recover the business.


Stock Report: Darden Restaurants (DRI) - HE DRI chart 2 19 16


Howe: How Demographic Trends Impact Your Portfolio


In this recent excerpt of The Macro Show, Hedgeye Managing Director and Demography analyst Neil Howe responds to a subscriber’s question about how the “glacial pace” of demographic trends and migration impacts investors’ portfolios. If you like this excerpt, you’ll love The Macro Show.

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down

Takeaway: Mother Yellen’s more to blame than Mother Nature. Only saving grace in owning this is that everything else likely to go down more.

VFC is near the top of the list of names we really want to own. The portfolio (even though we don’t like portfolios of brands) has gotten so good over time, it diversified geographic exposure more than most people think with ~30% of sales coming from outside the US, and its channel distribution is just about as good as a wholesale portfolio can expect – and it is now by a factor of 3 it’s own largest customer. These factors add up to a degree of earnings defendability that you don’t find too often in retail. And of course, check out the 20-year chart. Some management teams are worth betting against – this one certainly is not.


With all that said, we saw an extremely sharp deceleration in organic growth – from 7.4% to 2.6%, at the same time Gross margins rolled 70bps vs last year and EBIT margins similarly turned down. Management came across as ‘beyond-beared-up’ on the global demand equation throughout the remainder of this winter season and at least for the next 6 months. Yes, weather played a part in the miss – we all know this part of the story without having to go through puffy coat inventory issues.  But let’s be crystal clear, there was more than weather at play here. In fact, Janet Yellen likely had a bigger impact than mother nature.

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down - 2 19 2016 VFC chart1

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down - 2 19 2016 VFC chart2


Given VF's product diversity mass market/athletic and global reach, this company should be putting up more consistent and predictable earnings than just about anybody, anywhere. And yet, it didn’t, which might end up being one of the more negative data points we've seen through retail earnings season.


Yes, the stock is starting to look ‘cheap’ (whatever that means). But when a management team as good as this loses control over its business so quickly and to such a great extent, we absolutely positively cannot say that this guide down will be the last.  If you have to maintain certain exposure to retail, then yes, it might be worth picking away at VFC on red – but only because everything else is likely to go down more.

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down - 2 19 2016 VFC chart3


Other Thoughts --

Macro Outlook - VFC sounded particularly bearish on the current Macro environment. Characterizing the Macro environment as 'worse than anyone expected'. Supporting that with numbers, this was the first time VFC reported negative revenue growth since 2009. But, unlike many street models would lead one to believe, it's not letting up now that we've entered 1H16.

Inventory - Inventory was up 9% and the sales/inventory spread weakened to -13% from -9% last Q. Despite management spin, the fact is that inventory is way too high at VFC and likely around the industry (DKS, TGT, WMT, etc.). Even if we were to adjust for the cold weather hit, we are still looking at a sales to inventory spread of -9%.

Outdoor Weak, Jeanswear Strength - If there was one positive in this print for VFC and its US wholesale partners it’s the jeanswear segment. Contrary to what we heard from HBI on the basics category at WMT and TGT, the jeanswear segment actually accelerated in 4Q. Not that the wholesalers can hang their hats on that one. Outdoor was the laggard at 1% C$ revenue growth, especially when considering the way it has carried the topline. But, North Face as a brand is anything but broken.

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down - 2 19 2016 VFC chart4

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down - 2 19 2016 VFC chart5

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down - 2 19 2016 VFC chart6

VFC | There’ll Be Another Guide Down - 2 19 2016 VFC chart7

Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.47%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.71%

HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital?

Takeaway: Is 2016 the next 2011, open interest says no.

The biggest risk for shareholders in the exchange sector is that volatility dries up and liquidity in the market recedes. This was the case in 2011 as volatility spiked when the U.S. lost is AAA sovereign credit rating from S&P and the 13.3 million average daily contract volume on CME Group (CME) cascaded down to just 11.4 million contracts per day for 2012. This analog is important because this is the risk for CME longs for 2016 and 2017. Open interest however signaled this trading slack in the '11/'12 slough off as by September of 2011, open interest tallies were comping negatively by late summer portending the forthcoming slack in trading for 2012. Fast forwarding 4 years, open interest tallies currently couldn't be more positive, with the 114 million contracts in the backlog threatening to set new monthly highs each rolling 30 day period. The combination of new electronic (digital) trading in options and new product introduction in rates (the back end of the Eurodollar curve and also new Treasury products), makes the stock one of the few solid long positions in U.S. Financials currently. 



HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - Vol1

HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - Vol2


Weekly Activity Wrap Up

Volatility and volume eased in tandem this week, however average daily volumes (ADVs) are still tracking well above 1Q15 ADVs creating solid year-over-year growth. Cash equity volume for the week came in at 8.7 billion shares traded per day, bringing the 1Q16TD ADV to 9.3 billion, up +35% Y/Y. Futures activity at CME and ICE came in at 21.3 million contracts traded per day this week, bringing the 1Q16TD ADV to 24.5 million, up +22% Y/Y. Additionally, CME's open interest currently tallies 114.2 million contracts, 25% higher than the 91.3 million pending at the end of 2015, which will drag trading volume higher going forward. Options came in at 17.3 million contracts traded per day this week, bringing the 1Q16TD ADV to 18.5 million, up +19% Y/Y. 


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon1


U.S. Cash Equity Detail

U.S. cash equities trading came in at 8.7 billion shares per day this week, bringing the 1Q16TD average to 9.3 billion shares per day. That marks +35% Y/Y and +32% Q/Q growth. The market share battle for volume is mixed. The New York Stock Exchange/ICE is taking a 24% share of first-quarter volume, which is consistent with the prior quarter and year-ago quarter, while NASDAQ is taking a 19% share, +49 bps higher Q/Q but -99 bps lower than one year ago.


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon2


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon3


U.S. Options Detail

U.S. options activity came in at a 17.3 million ADV this week, bringing the 1Q16TD average to 18.5 million, a +19% Y/Y and +16% Q/Q expansion. In the market share battle amongst venues, NYSE/ICE has been trending downward at a moderate pace, but at an 18% share it is +69 bps higher than the year-ago quarter. Meanwhile, NASDAQ's recent declines bring it -396 bps lower than 1Q15. CBOE's market share is down -141 bps Y/Y but has improved recently; its 27% share of 1Q16TD volume is up +137 bps from 4Q15. BATS and ISE/Deutsche have been taking share from the competing exchanges, with BATS up to a 10% share from 9% a year ago and ISE/Deutsche taking 16%, up from 13% a year ago.


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon4


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon5


U.S. Futures Detail

16.7 million futures contracts traded through CME Group this week, bringing the 1Q16TD average to 18.6 million, a +24% Y/Y and +41% Q/Q expansion. Additionally, CME open interest, the most important beacon of forward activity, currently sits at 114.2 million CME contracts pending, good for +25% growth over the 91.3 million pending at the end of 4Q15, although that is slightly lower than last week's +27%.


Contracts traded through ICE came in at 4.6 million per day this week, bringing the 1Q16TD ADV to 5.9 million, +18% Y/Y and +24% Q/Q growth. ICE open interest this week tallied 69.5 million contracts, a +9% expansion versus the 63.7 million contracts open at the end of 4Q15, a contraction from +10% last week.


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon6


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon8


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon7


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon9 


Monthly Historical View

Monthly activity levels give a broader perspective of exchange based trends. As volatility levels, measured by the VIX, MOVE, and FX Vol should rise to normal levels after the drastic compression this cycle, we expect all marketplaces to experience higher activity levels.


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon10


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon11


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon12


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon13


HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon14 2

HEDGEYE Exchange Tracker | Analog or Digital? - XMon15



Please let us know of any questions,


Jonathan Casteleyn, CFA, CMT 




 Joshua Steiner, CFA





3 Contrarian Macro Calls Beating The Market

Takeaway: There are other options available than staying aboard the sinking equity ship.

3 Contrarian Macro Calls Beating The Market - Stocks crash test dummies cartoon 02.18.2016


Below are three big, non-consensus calls we've been recommending to our subscribers with brief analysis from Hedgeye CEO Keith McCullough's macro notebook sent to subscribers earlier this morning. They are based on our Macro team's #GrowthSlowing, #Deflation & #LowerForLonger calls.



"10yr – UST ticks back down to 1.73% this morning and the call for all-time lows on the long-end of the curve remains firmly intact; best way to be long #GrowthSlowing in US Equity Sector Style terms = Utilities (XLU); best short = Financials (XLF)"



Even with this week's market bounce, plunging 10yr Treasury yields is exactly why our bullish Long Bond (TLT) call is outperforming equities this year.


3 Contrarian Macro Calls Beating The Market - tlt v s p update


Long Utilities (XLU)

short Financials (XLF)


Talk about alpha.


3 Contrarian Macro Calls Beating The Market - xlu v xlf update


Get off the sinking equity ship while you can.

The Fed Is Up The Creek Without a Paddle

Takeaway: Our Financials team analyzes the disconcerting trend in jobless claims and what the Fed could do about it.

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from a research note sent to subscribers on Thursday. For more information on our institutional research please email


This week we want to take a step back from the high frequency claims data and take stock of where we are in the cycle, and consider what policy tools the Fed has at its disposal.


Where are we in the cycle?


As the chart below shows, we're now in month 23 of initial jobless claims running at a sub-330k level. The last 3 cycles have seen the expansion last 24, 45 and 31 months at a sub-330k level, with an average of 33 months. Coupled with the slew of weak economic data coming from the industrial/manufacturing/energy side of the economy, we think it's a better than bad bet that economic contraction isn't far away. 


The Fed Is Up The Creek Without a Paddle - Claims18 

What can the Fed do about it? 


We think the cycle being late warrants asking the question: What can the Fed do?


The table below shows that the Fed's average response to the past seven recessions has been a -750 bps rate cut. However, it is facing a significant shortfall in its accommodative ability with the Fed Funds rate currently sitting at around 0.36%. In other words, it's one and done to get back to zero, and then it's QE or NIRP. As we show at the end of this note, the yield spread is already at a post-crisis low (108 bps), which is ratcheting up the pain for banks. 2016 was supposed to be the year when this pressure finally turned tailwind, but instead it's increasingly looking like the opposite is the most probable course for 2016 and beyond. 


The Fed Is Up The Creek Without a Paddle - Claims17

Early Look

daily macro intelligence

Relied upon by big institutional and individual investors across the world, this granular morning newsletter distills the latest and most vital market developments and insures that you are always in the know.