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We’ve seen conflicting reports lately on the state of casual dining.The most recent article reports on a Friedman, Billings, Ramsey analyst note earlier this week that said California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s China Bistro will all face negative impacts from housing woes in Arizona, California and Florida, as consumers in those states cut spending.But another report just last week had a Raymond James analyst upgrading Brinker International, P.F. Chang’s and many other chains. Analyst Bryan C. Elliott said demand in the sector is stabilizing, and many casual-dining chains could have better-than-expected results.So what’s the real story?We’ve all read plenty about rising food costs. Plus, consumers with tighter wallets because of the downturn in the economy are said to prefer quick-service venues and grocery-prepared items to casual-dining fare as of late.Has all of this been overblown, and are we soon going to see these experienced restaurant operators bounce back? Or will problems in the economy mixed with high food costs and rapid real estate expansion lead to future restaurant closings?

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