NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks in the restaurant sector were mixed Friday with Brinker International ( EAT - Get Report) leading the group lower on an executive resignation.

Brinker International said late Thursday that CFO Charles M. Sonsteby will resign, effective Oct. 1, to take an executive position with a private retail company.
Chili's

Brinker shares were down 6.4% with less than an hour left in the session. More than 4.2 million shares were in play, compared with the stock's average volume of 2 million shares.

>> Brinker CFO Steps Down

Among sector gainers was Denny's ( DENN - Get Report), up 3.8%. Shares of the restaurant operator known for its Grand Slam breakfasts were recently upgraded from hold to buy from research firm Feltl. MKM Partners has a neutral rating on the stock, downgraded from buy earlier this year.

Denny's appeared on TheStreet's recent ranking of 20 Riskiest Restaurant Stocks .

>> Bankruptcy Watch: 20 Riskiest Restaurant Stocks

Jefferies initiated coverage of McDonald's ( MCD - Get Report), Chipotle Mexican Grill ( CMG - Get Report) and Yum! Brands ( YUM - Get Report), rating the trio hold.

Jefferies put a price target on McDonald's of $75 per share, noting its stock already priced in potential earnings growth.

Chipotle was given a price target of $155, citing that its stock already priced in the company's above-average growth potential.

Yum! was given a price target of $44, noting concern the operator of KFC and Taco Bell restaurants could face margin and currency pressure in the second half of the year.

McDonald's shares fell 0.7% in later-afternoon trading. Chipotle gained 0.8% and Yum! fell 0.2% after hitting a 52-week high of $46.28 on Tuesday .

Yum! also announced this week a 19% increase of its quarterly dividend, to 25 cents per share . The new dividend will be paid on Nov. 5 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Oct. 15.

>>Yum! Dishes Out Bigger Dividend

Fast food stocks have topped headlines in recent weeks after rumors circulated -- and were then confirmed -- that Burger King had agreed to be taken private.

Wendy's Arby's Group ( WEN - Get Report) traded higher by 1.3% ahead of the closing bell Friday despite its word Thursday that rising commodity costs will hit its restaurants in the third and fourth quarters. Wendy's expects a 2% to 3% commodity increase for fiscal 2010. Higher raw food costs would likely undermine profit margins as fast-food restaurants are hesitant to raise prices in a weak economy, according to CFO Stephen E. Hare.

-- Written by Miriam Marcus Reimer in New York.

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