Last year was a good one for most restaurant stocks. A strong economy lifted demand across the value spectrum from fast food to casual dining. And consumers' enthusiasm around new menu offerings and home delivery boosted sales even further.

Yet some restaurant giants are better positioned than others to maintain this positive momentum deep into 2020. Below, we'll look at three of the restaurant industry's most attractive stocks here at the start of a new year.

Five young people eating fast food around a table

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Starbucks

It took a while, but Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) is back in global growth mode. The coffee and snack specialist recently closed out a banner fiscal 2019 that was highlighted by accelerating sales growth across its selling footprint. Gains sped up in China, which management has pegged as a huge revenue driver over the next few decades. The chain also managed 3% higher customer traffic in its U.S. stores in the most recent quarter, an impressive result given declining traffic at rivals like Dunkin' Brands.

That rebound puts shareholders in a great position to see a return to profitability growth in 2020 following last year's rare decline. The earnings boost, plus accelerating dividend and stock repurchase spending, should support healthy returns in the year ahead, especially if Starbucks' operating rebound continues to gain steam.

2. Domino's

Investors have had to scale back their expectations around Domino's (NYSE:DPZ) growth prospects recently, but there are still some great reasons to own a piece of this business, starting with its global expansion opportunity. The chain enjoys strong economics, a powerful brand, and a flexible franchising operation. All of these strengths combined to support almost 6,000 new store launches since 2012. Domino's still believes it can be one of the industry's fastest growers over the next few years, too, as it adds about 7% to its global footprint each year through 2022.

Its domestic sales growth has slowed over the last 18 months, in part because of management's "fortressing" strategy that has bulked up Domino's presence in existing markets. The good news is that this initiative should support its dominant market share as rivals struggle to match its ultra-fast pickup and delivery fulfillment times. That competitive advantage, plus Domino's innovative lead in mobile ordering, should help the chain log its ninth consecutive year of comps growth in 2020 while supporting tasty returns for shareholders from here.

3. McDonald's

If you've been waiting for a pullback in McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) shares before buying the stock, late 2019 delivered for you. The fast-food giant sat out of the market's year-end rally thanks to the combination of a surprise shakeup involving its CEO and stubborn sluggishness in the core U.S. market. Both issues are causes for concern, but neither should prevent you from buying this stellar long-term investment.

McDonald's comps gains are still tracking well ahead of rivals such as Shake Shack, even if customer traffic is declining (as it has for almost two years). The restaurant chain has the right strategy in place for capitalizing on home delivery, too, although it will likely take some time for third-party aggregators to shake out of the market. The good news is that shareholders will be compensated for their patience as they collect McDonald's 2.5% dividend yield and wait for the fast-food titan's U.S. growth plan to start showing more concrete results.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.