Slowing customer counts and anemic same-store sales comparisons at publicly held casual dining chains have the analysts who follow these stocks concerned. The central problem: rising energy prices devour consumers' discretionary spending dollars while simultaneously encouraging them to stay home. The litany of casual dining chains that have seen average unit volumes go flat or turn negative includes such industry powerhouses as Applebee's, Outback Steakhouse (recently renamed OSI), Red ...

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