A relentless news cycle of economic ups-and-downs is giving would-be diners at U.S. steakhouses indigestion.

Revenue at these restaurants has been “more erratic” in 2012 than last year as eating out has become an “emotional” decision, even for affluent consumers and corporate customers, said Malcolm Knapp, a New York-based consultant who created the Knapp-Track Index of monthly restaurant sales and guest counts. “It’s a very uneven market” for these establishments.

There could be additional weakness ahead in the fourth quarter as news about the economy dominates headlines leading up to the November presidential election. “Waves of fear” about the health of the U.S. expansion have taken a toll on corporate spending, a key component of steakhouse sales, and further fears could have “a pretty sizable impact” on this industry, said Mike Englund, chief economist at Boulder, Colorado-based forecaster Action Economics LLC.

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