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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- The hunger pangs are far from over for casual dining and fast-food companies.

While most have, or will, beat profit expectations, this feat apparently no longer holds the same cachet for investors as it did during the first two quarters of the year. Indeed, while stocks in the casual dining sector are up 60% on average, according to Stifel Nicolaus analyst Steve West, the rally shows signs that it will soon be over.

Sales are still slumping across the board. The market appears less likely to reward restaurants for beating expectations through tax breaks and cost cuts. And we have already seen investors pull back after earnings reports this week -- and last -- in a sign that more stock slumps will surely follow.

For example, consider

Brinker

(EAT) - Get Brinker International, Inc. Report

. Shares of the company, which owns Chili's Grill & Bar and On the Border chains, plunged more than 12% after the company said it beat expectations, but did so through deep promotions and discounts.

During the quarter,

Brinker had earned $15.8 million, or 15 cents a share

, down 34% from $23.8 million, or 23 cents in the year-ago period. Excluding one-time items, the chain had actually earned 17 cents a share, surpassing the 15 cents analyst forecast.

Still, revenue sank 21% to $778.1 million from $984.4 million, while same-store sales declined 6%. And traffic tumbled between 5% and 6%, the sixth consecutive year of negative traffic in the first quarter. Hence the punishment from investors.

Likewise, on Wednesday,

P.F. Chang's China Bistro

( PFCB) missed its profit outlook, sending shares down by 10% to close at $30.28.

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While the chain upped its full-year guidance, it still remained below Wall Street's consensus -- and the move was not enough to calm investors shaken by an 8.5% drop in same-store sales at its namesake chain.

During the third quarter, P.F. Chang's earned $6.2 million, or 27 cents a share, up from $3 million, or 12 cents, in the year prior. Analysts were calling for 31 cents a share. Sales slipped 2% to $290.3 million from $295.8 million.

Looking ahead, the company now expects to earn $1.70 to $1.75 a share during the year, up from a prior forecast in the range of $1.60 to $1.65 a share.

On the fast-food side, the numbers are equally unappealing: Shares of

Sonic

(SONC)

fell more than 10%, to $10.02, a day after the drive-through chain

reported a decline in both profit and sales

.

During the fourth quarter, the company earned $16.9 million, or 28 cents a share, beating analysts' expectations by a penny. This compares with $20.2 million, or 33 cents, in the year-ago period.

But revenue sank 23% to $178.8 million from $226.9 million last year, while total same-store sales slipped 4.5%.

Equally lackluster is

Yum Brands

(YUM) - Get Yum! Brands, Inc. Report

, the operator of Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, which announced Oct. 12 that its

third-quarter profit shot up 18%

, boosted by its strength in China.

During the quarter, the company earned $334 million, or 69 cents a share, compared with $282 million, or 58 cents, in the year-ago period. Excluding one-time items, results came in at 70 cents a share, surpassing the 58 cents analysts expected.

Revenue slipped 2% to $2.78 billion from $2.84 billion, while same-store sales dropped 6%. Still, the company sees more appetizing numbers ahead, and has lifted its full-year outlook. Yum Brands now expects to earn $2.14 a share, up from prior forecast of $2.10 a share.

Despite all this, the stock closed Wednesday at $34.55 -- or 45 cents lower than when it reported its earnings last week.

Even standouts like

Darden

(DRI) - Get Darden Restaurants, Inc. Report

and

Domino's Pizza

(DPZ) - Get Domino's Pizza, Inc. Report

were punished when they reported results.

Shares of Domino's tumbled as much as 10% on Oct. 13, though the firm reported a

76% surge in its third-quarter profit

, surpassing Wall Street's consensus estimates.

During the quarter, the company earned $17.8 million, or 31 cents a share, compared with $10.1 million, or 17 cents, in the year-ago period.

Excluding a pre-tax gain of $14.3 million from retiring debt, profit was actually 17 cents a share, surpassing analysts' expectations of 15 cents. And while revenue sank 6.5% to $302.7 million, same-store sales remained flat domestically and grew 2.7% internationally.

Such is the reality for a number of firms, including:

BJ's Restaurants

(BJRI) - Get BJ's Restaurants, Inc. Report

and

The Cheesecake Factory

(CAKE) - Get Cheesecake Factory Incorporated Report

reporting after-market today,

Chipotle Mexican Grill

(CMG) - Get Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. Report

and

Panera Bread

(PNRA)

reporting Oct. 27,

Papa John's

(PZZA) - Get Papa John's International, Inc. Report

on Nov. 3,

Wendy's/Arby's

(WEN) - Get Wendy's Company Report

on Nov. 5 and

Jack in the Box

(JACK) - Get Jack in the Box Inc. Report

on Nov. 18.

Our advice to them: Get used to feeling hungry.

-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York

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