Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) stock has had a rough run recently, with shares essentially going nowhere over the last three years. But the stock's underperformance along with management's invigorated commitment to returning capital to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends are beginning to make the stock attractive -- especially for dividend investors.

With anemic comparable-store sales growth of just 1% in the most recent quarter, Starbucks certainly isn't the growth stock it was in years past. But an aggressive capital return program paired with management's efforts to run a leaner operation make Starbucks a cash cow worth betting on. Put another way, Starbucks has morphed into a solid dividend stock.

Here are four reasons for investors to love Starbucks' dividend.

A chalkboard sketch of a bar chart with an arrow indicating a growth trend

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Starbucks has a strong dividend yield

The most obvious reason for investors to bet on Starbucks' dividend is its strong dividend yield. Currently, Starbucks has a robust dividend yield of 2.7% -- way above the average dividend yield of stocks in the S&P 500 of 1.8%. 

Thanks to Starbucks stock's underperformance over the last three years as the company continued to increase its dividend, Starbucks' dividend yield has more than doubled during this time frame.

2. Starbucks' dividend is growing sharply

A glance at Starbucks' strong dividend growth over the past three years tells a different story than its stock's performance. Starbucks' quarterly dividend payout has increased 125% since 2015, rising from $0.16 to $0.36. On an annualized basis, Starbucks' quarterly dividend translates to $1.44 per share. 

Over the past five years, Starbucks has averaged annualized dividend growth of 24%. And Starbucks remains committed to strong dividend increases, with its dividend increasing by 20% in both 2017 and 2018.

3. Starbucks' payout ratio is low

Not only does Starbucks have a meaningful dividend yield, but it importantly has a low payout ratio, too. Paying out just 37% of its earnings in dividends, this means Starbucks has plenty of upside for further dividend increases.

Of course, if Starbucks keeps growing its earnings per share at double-digit rates like it did in its fiscal third quarter, it won't need to increase its payout ratio to keep boosting its dividend.

4. Management is prioritizing dividends

Last, it's important to note that Starbucks has specifically committed to making returning capital to shareholders a priority. In an update on its strategic priorities and operational initiatives this summer, management said it was sharpening its focus on profitability and shareholder returns. Part of this strategy included returning more cash to shareholders. 

"With the execution of the company's strategic priorities expected to improve the return profile of the business, the company now expects to return approximately $25 billion in cash to shareholders in the form of share buybacks and dividends through FY20," management said in a press release in June.

This represented a $10 billion increase to the company's previously announced capital return program.

Considering Starbucks' substantial dividend yield, low payout ratio, strong dividend growth, and management's prioritization of returning cash to shareholders, the coffee giant is an excellent stock for dividend investors.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.