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Annotated article summary from this weekend's Barron's. Receive all our Barron's summaries by signing up here:

Burger Heaven: Eating Applebee's Lunch by Richard Phalon

Summary: Anyone who thought burger joints wouldn't hold up to America's health-conscientiousness will have to think again. Leader of the pack McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) is up nearly 25% in recent years, but the burger sector is at a possible top after such strong players as Jack in the Box (JBX) climbed 67% in the past 12 months. These numbers have come at the expense of the next rung up in the food chain - the casual dining outfits, which have only barely climbed or have even declined. Shares of Applebee's (APPB), for example, have risen only 5% in close to a year, and the pressure is on for it to make changes, or even sell itself. The reason for this consumer preference is twofold. First, middle-income Americans, hit with weak home prices and spending top dollar for gas and interest rates, would just as soon save a few bucks on lunch. Second, the more nutritious options that the fast food chains have introduced have made their spoons less greasy, and have proven to be healthy for their business as well. Shares could easily rise another 10% thanks to expanded breakfast offerings.

Related: Applebee's Shareholder Targets Board in Shake-up AttemptMcDonald's CEO Discusses China StrategyStrong Earnings Have Jack in the Box Stock Jumping

MCD vs. APPB 1-yr chart

MCD APPB chart

Source: Ronald McDonald's Rivals May Not Be Grinning - Barron's