These days, good news about the casual dining industry is tough to find. Even former highfliers like Panera Bread (Nasdaq: PNRA) are looking like burnt toast. As the economy cools and consumer spending shrinks, investors have been avoiding the sector like the plague.

So it's not surprising that a decent quarter from Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (Nasdaq: RRGB) went largely unnoticed. Its earnings of $0.60 beat analyst estimates of $0.54 by a mile, and they looked especially solid compared to last year's $0.53 (which got an $0.11-per-share boost from an extra week). So why didn't the stock take a nice jump on the news?

While total sales grew 23%, excluding last year's extra week, and comps were up 2.7%, the increase was all in the average check size. Customer traffic still fell 1.5% for the quarter.

Early last year, the company began a national TV advertising campaign, which initially stemmed the tide of declining traffic. But fourth-quarter traffic seems to indicate that the effort has fizzled out, even though management praised the ads for driving a sharp increase in awareness, and gushed over the awards its quirky commercials have received.

The CAPS community is wary of the company, awarding it only two stars out of a possible five. I take to heart the comments on Red Robin being a bit pricey. While a gourmet burger should command a premium price, $8.79 in Dallas for a bacon cheeseburger is a lot more than $7.29 at Chili's, owned by Brinker (NYSE: EAT), or $6.99 at Applebee's, which is being acquired by IHOP (NYSE: IHOP).

The stock price doesn't look like much of a bargain, either, trading at 20 times trailing-12-month earnings. When investors can snap up Ruby Tuesday (NYSE: RT) at less than half that multiple, or an all-world growth chain like Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD), I'm wary of taking a peck at Red Robin.

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Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte surveys the retail scene from Dallas. He welcomes comments on his articles, but doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy, sadly, does not come with a side of seasoned fries.