Three well-known and popular restaurant stocks have reported their most recent quarterly results. Should investors pull up to the table and grab some shares ... or just say no and go on a diet?

A trio of culinary quarters
Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) said its fourth-quarter profit increased an impressive 86%, to $31.6 million, or $0.99 per share. Revenue climbed 12.2%, to $387.5 million, and comparable restaurant sales jumped 2%.

Panera (NASDAQ:PNRA) also reported a solid quarter. Fourth-quarter net income increased 16%, to $29.7 million. Revenue was slightly anemic, though, up 3% to $367 million. Panera's comps were incredible, though, with same-store sales at company-owned cafes surging 7.4% and those at franchised stores up 6.4%.

For its part, though, Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD) reported a far less heady quarter. Fourth-quarter net income only increased 7.9%, to $8.3 million, or $0.46 per share. However, it was still able to report an impressive increase in sales, with total revenue surging 19.6%, to $145 million. Company-owned same-store sales increased 2.6%, while those at franchised stores rose 2%.

Premium bargains?
Buffalo Wild Wings shares got slammed Friday, while Chipotle and Panera shares enjoyed modest gains. Each company has a historical reputation for expensive shares, which has particularly kept me from indulging in my hankering for Chipotle stock. That said, my consistent belief that Panera is too overpriced and headed for a fall has yet to pan out; so far, it has performed very well.

All three of these casual-dining restaurant stocks still have seemingly high (and strikingly similar) valuations. Buffalo Wild Wings trades at 25 times trailing earnings, while Chipotle and Panera both have a price-to-earnings ratio of 26. In contrast, investors can buy high-performing McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) for less than 16 times trailing earnings, which certainly looks like a bargain by comparison. McDonald's is a steady dividend payer, too.

It goes without saying that the economy weighs heavily on restaurant stocks of every stripe. While it's heartening that the three companies in question were able to increase their revenue in the fourth quarter, high unemployment and economic uncertainty mean that restaurants must compete with one another for coveted consumer dollars going forward. That could be a difficult battle, especially now that the jolly holidays are over.

Chipotle, Panera, and Buffalo Wild Wings have an added defensive element; they offer lower prices on their food than higher-end names such as Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) or Ruth's Hospitality (NASDAQ:RUTH). That said, low prices alone aren't enough to protect a company. Look at the latest results from Burger King (NYSE:BKC) for proof.

Despite my recent concerns about its price, if I had to choose a restaurant stock right now, I'd still prefer a tried-and-true blue chip and excellent performer like McDonald's to any of these three contenders.

Do you like Chipotle, Panera, or Buffalo Wild Wings at their recent prices, or would you stick with a relative bargain like Mickey D's? Any other restaurant stock ideas you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments box below.

Chipotle is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle are Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Chipotle.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.