One of its competitors in the space is Qdoba Mexican Grill, which is owned by publicly traded Jack-In-The-Box. While not part of the S&P 500, Jack-In-The-Box stock has risen by 5 percent year to date and has gained 64 percent over the last 12 months. Shares are now in line with analyst target prices, with a 50-50 split between those who rate it a "buy" and those who rate it a "hold."
The notable laggard in this group is McDonald's, the most heavily weighted restaurant stock in the entire S&P 500. The company has struggled to grow sales and win back customers from smaller competitors like Chipotle and Burger King.
David Palmer, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, expects that lower-priced menu offerings from competitors could continue to put pressure on the company. McDonald's is also trying to find the right product mix for its menu.
Earlier Friday, the company reported quarterly profits and sales that missed analyst expectations. However, sales at stores open at least a year on a global basis fell by a smaller-than-expected 0.1 percent. That led to some earlier strength in the shares, however those gains have since faded.
The stock has started off 2015 with a 4 percent drop and has lost 6 percent over the last year. Nearly 4 out of every 5 analysts who cover the stock have a "neutral" rating on it, although the current average target price implies a possible 7 percent upside move.
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Even as fuel prices continue to fall, the health of the overall economy has much of America still feeling skittish. While many are willing to spend a little more money on dining out more often, the financial results from companies like McDonald's, Starbucks and others shows that people are still being picky about where they choose to spend their hard-earned income.
With the U.S. Energy Information Administration now predicting that the average American household could spend $750 less on gasoline this year, investors will be watching where those extra savings are deployed, and whether restaurants could continue to be a beneficiary.