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Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili's, Applebee's Tweak Menus to Tempt Customers Back

Updated from July 20 to include Dunkin' Donuts second-quarter earnings.

People are buying new appliances and cars amid an improvement in the job market and a rise in stock prices. But the spending momentum apparently hasn't found its way into restaurants this year.

Total restaurant industry traffic was flat in the first quarter, according to the latest data from research firm NPD. Even the historically hot fast-casual sector -- led by names such as Chipotle (CMG) and Panera Bread (PNRA) -- was sluggish in the first quarter as traffic levels were unchanged from the prior year.

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"There is a confluence of changing demographics, economic pressures and evolving consumer attitudes and behaviors creating shifts in what, where, when and how we eat," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst.

Share prices for some of the biggest restaurant chains have subsequently taken a hit.

Shares of Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) have dropped 14% year to date, DineEquity (DIN) (owner of Applebee's and IHOP) has shed 3.1% and Brinker International (EAT) , which operates Chili's and Maggiano's, has lost 0.3%. The S&P 500 is up roughly 6% on the year.

On Thursday, shares of coffee and donuts giant Dunkin Brands Group (DNKN) fell as much as 4% following mixed second-quarter results. Dunkin' reported that net sales for the second-quarter rose 2.3% from the prior year to $216.3 million. Analysts expected sales of $220.2 million. Earnings, adjusted for one-time items, gained 14% year over year...