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Low gas prices benefit these restaurants: Analyst

With prices at the pump down, consumers may be looking to treat themselves to a little something extra while eating out. However, while the restaurant sector clearly benefits from cheap gas, there are certain names that stand out, restaurant analyst Bob Derrington told CNBC on Friday.

"A rising tide literally can lift all the boats," he said in an interview with "Street Signs."

However, it is companies with strong management teams coupled with reasonable check averages that make his buy list.

Specifically, he thinks Jack in the Box, Buffalo Wild Wings, Red Robin and BJ's Restaurants will be "really good performers" going into the New Year.

A file photo of a Buffalo Wild Wings location in Detroit.
Raymond Boyd | Getty Images
A file photo of a Buffalo Wild Wings location in Detroit.

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Consumers are now paying 65 cents less for a gallon of gas than they were a year ago, which should translate into more spending. The current national average for a gallon of regular is $2.60, the lowest since December 2009, according to AAA.

"I think there clearly will be some lift to the check average both from menu pricing and from mix—from the fact that customers may order another appetizer or another adult beverage or maybe a little bit better cut of steak for dinnertime," said Derrington, senior restaurant analyst at Wunderlich Securities.

Even if gas prices reverse course and begin to rise, he said his picks are better situated to handle it.

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However, Derrington is cautious about high-end restaurants, especially those in places like Texas, where a lot of jobs depend on the oil industry.

"Normally this is a great time of the year to go out and eat at a really fine dining restaurant ... but given what's going on with potentially oil and gas prices and what ... ripple into Texas economy, there may be less celebration this year," he said.

"We may see softer sales in some of these higher-end restaurants."

Disclosure: Bob Derrington does not own Jack in the Box, Buffalo Wild Wings, Red Robin or BJ's Restaurants.

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