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Restaurants warn data miners

More restaurant chains say they are fed up with analysts calling individual stores to collect sales data and future marketing plans.

Wendy's International and Outback Steakhouse said yesterday that they have seen a marked increase in the number of calls made to individual stores in recent months, and that they want it to stop.

"People [are] calling our restaurants and misidentifying who they are and what the purpose of their call is, to get same-store sales and sales trend data," Outback CFO Bob Merritt told analysts.

"We have reviewed this with our security counsel and we are convinced that it's a violation of the Securities Act," he added. "We intend to vigorously defend ourselves from those kinds of calls."

Wendy's investor relations chief John Barker took a somewhat softer line, issuing no threats but rather noting that some of what analysts come up with isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

"Unfortunately, some of the reports have been inaccurate at times and not indicative of our nationwide sales results," he said.

"We believe this practice is disruptive to a quarterly and fair disclosure process," he added.

One analyst, Mark Kalinowksi of Salomon Smith Barney, is well-known for asking about the wait times at casual-dining units and including that information in his analysis.

Neither Outback nor Wendy's complained about journalists, who frequently call individual stores to gather intelligence.

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