Shares of casual diners have been on a tear, thanks to the improving economy and consumers with a bit more discretionary cash. But while the latest surge may have some investors wary the stocks are getting pricey, at least one analyst says to grab them while they're still hot.
“We enter 2012 with stronger sales [compared to last year], with easing commodity inflation and with more menu pricing to protect margins…so the outlook going into 2012 is still looking pretty strong,” said Jeff Bernstein, senior restaurant analyst at Barclays Capital.
While Bernstein has a “neutral” rating on the whole restaurant group (which includes both casual dining and quick service), he is particularly bullish on casual dining.
“Quick service is more defensive in nature and performs better in a downturn as it did last year,” he explained on "Squawk on the Street."
“As we look to 2012, we think you’ll see a trade throughout the year out of quick service and more into the more discretionary, whether it be casual dining or whether it be the fast casual names.”
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