NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks in the restaurant sector were mostly in the red Thursday, in line with the session's overall downturn as the latest round of economic reports heightened fears of a stalled recovery.

A few key sector players bucked the trend, however, gaining share value even as the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled more than 140 points.

Wendy's Arby's ( WEN) shares spent much of Thursday seesawing, but managed to close with a gain of 1%. Earlier this week Wendy's took Top Overall and Top Food honors among mega chains in Zagat's 2010 Fast Food Survey. Industry behemoth McDonald's ( MCD) scored for best french fries, best drive-thru, best value menu and best breakfast sandwiches.

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Sonic ( SONC) shares started the day lower but rose throughout the session, closing up 1.6%. The chain of drive-ins posted lower profits and revenue last quarter, but the figures still beat expectations. Analysts expect the company to earn 23 cents per share in the current quarter on revenue of $155 million.

The biggest winners in the restaurant category Thursday -- at least by percentage gains in the session -- were J. Alexander's ( JAX) and AFC Enterprises ( AFCE), closing up 6.1% and 5.2%, respectively.

J. Alexander's said last week it returned to year-over-year profitability in the second quarter with same-store sales increasing 4.7%. AFC, the operator of Popeyes restaurants, posted a 6.3% jump in quarterly profits late Wednesday, beating expectations, and raised its full-year guidance.

Steak n Shake parent Biglari Holdings ( BH) closed up 2% Thursday. The holding company more than doubled quarterly profits thanks to stronger performance at Steak n Shake restaurants and to its acquisition of Western Sizzlin, a steak and buffet restaurant chain, which it acquired March 30.

Shares of Panera Bread ( PNRA) struggled to hold early gains and teetered around the unchanged mark throughout the trading session. The stock was 0.2% lower at the closing bell.

-- Reported by Miriam Marcus Reimer from New York.


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