As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (i.e., a "buy") or underperform rating (i.e., a "sell") in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The No. 1 restaurant buy
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the No. 1 restaurant stock (and the top runners-up) based on the number of CAPS members who have rated the stock an outperform. Remember that only stocks rated 4- or 5-stars are consensus buys.


Market Capitalization (in millions)

Outperform Picks

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX)




McDonald's (NYSE: MCD)




Buffalo Wild Wings (Nasdaq: BWLD)




Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM)




Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG)




Panera Bread Company (Nasdaq: PNRA)




The Cheesecake Factory (Nasdaq: CAKE)




Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

More CAPS members think coffee slinger Starbucks is a buy than any other restaurant stock, but the consensus is that it's just a two-star stock. Perhaps the real winner is McDonald's, which ranks second and has a four-star rating.

Do you think Starbucks deserves more than two stars? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these popular stocks.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of McDonald's and The Cheesecake Factory. Chipotle is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle are Motley Fool Hidden Gems picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on Yum! Brands. The Fool owns shares of Chipotle, and Yum! Brands. The Fool has a disclosure policy.