Do high calorie counts = high stock prices for restaurant chains?

Posted at 10:01 PM, Jan 09, 2015

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Cajun fries at Popeye’s have 770 calories.

A Quesadilla Explosion Salad from Chili’s? 1,430 calories.

And if you’re brave enough to tackle the chicken and biscuits entree at Cheesecake Factory, you’d better hit the gym immediately after. It has a whopping 2,260 calories.

But consumers can’t get enough of these and many other fatty dishes. Shares of Popeye’s, Chili’s owner Brinker and Cheesecake Factory are at all-time highs.

They’re not the only restaurant stocks that specialize in those culinary guilty pleasures that are doing well either.

The triumph of gluttony

Pizza chains Papa John’s and Domino’s are close to record highs. So are shares of Buffalo Wild Wings.

DineEquity, which owns both Applebee’s and IHOP, is near its all-time peak too. (Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity pancake combo with strawberry and sausage? 1,080 calories.)

Fancy some quick Mexican? Chipotle is near an all-time high. (The calorie counts on those burrito bowls quickly add up when you add extras!) Shares of Jack in the Box, which owns Chipotle rival Qdoba as well as the hamburger chain, are also at a record.

Earlier this week, drive-in burger joint Sonic surged to an all-time high after reporting strong sales and earnings.

Even Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants is enjoying a renaissance on Wall Street since hedge fund Starboard, which viciously criticized Olive Garden’s menu last year, won control of the company’s board.

If there was an exchange-traded fund for all these stocks, it would be doing ridiculously well. The ticker symbol could be FAT. Or CHOL.

Where’s Ronald?

But there is one company noticeably absent from this list of tasty restaurant stocks: McDonald’s.

Shares of McDonald’s have fallen 7% in the past three years, a period of time when the S&P 500 is up 60%.

Much has been made about McDonald’s many problems in the United States and abroad. And some investors think that the main reason McDonald’s has been such a market laggard is because people want healthier eating options.

There’s some truth to that. Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts have been struggling lately too.

But if people were really boycotting saturated fats, sodium and carbs, then why aren’t other restaurant chains that offer a fair amount of artery-blocking food doing poorly too?

Consumers aren’t lovin’ McDonald’s. That is clear. But it may not be due to worries about their weight.

There are plenty of other places where you can find quick, cheap and yummier food … for diners and investors.