Looking for restaurant values amid tough times

It’s always darkest right before it goes pitch black, they like to say on Wall Street. With gas prices up, sugar, corn and chicken prices up and the minimum wage up for the first time since a Harry Potter book graced our shelves, it’s looking pretty dark in the restaurant business. To some extent, merger mania is holding the stocks up, especially after IHOP’s (Symbol: IHP) almost $2 billion bid for Applebee’s International (APPB). But potential deals can’t hide the industry’s poor operating results flowing through the most recent quarterly results. A portfolio of the biggest chains tracked on Stockpickr.com has lost 9% since the end of May.

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