Even if you're not buying stocks for the instant gratification of dividends, it makes sense to follow what companies are doing on that front. A company that hikes its payouts is indicating to the market that its fundamentals are improving and it's willing to put its money where its mouth is.

Let's take a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

We'll start with Star Buffet (NASDAQ:STRZ). The company not only raised its annual dividend per share from $0.50 to $0.60, but it also tacked on a special $0.25 per-share distribution that will go out to shareholders at the same time. Is this, in effect, a hike from two quarters to a full $0.85 per share? Not really. The company also paid out an extra quarter last year. Tacking on the special dividend gives the stock a huge 10% yield, although Star Buffet is clearly spelling it out this way so investors aren't disappointed if next year it sticks to just $0.60 a share for its annual springtime disbursement.

You may not be familiar with Star Buffet, but it's filled with a collection of smorgasbord concepts, most notably the once-publicly traded HomeTown Buffet. Star Buffet was spun off by CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKR) to allow the parent company behind Carl's Jr. and Hardee's to focus on its core brands.

Sherwin-Williams (NYSE:SHW) also put a fresh coat of paint on its payout. The paint maker's quarterly dividend is growing from $0.205 per share to $0.25 per share. This comes at a time when Sherwin-Williams and other paint makers have been taken to court over the use of lead paint in the past. It lost a lawsuit in Rhode Island this past week, so the timing of the hike is either misplaced bravado or the fiscal determination that it will be able to continue to pay out hefty dividends despite the legal burden.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (NASDAQ:RMCF) was another hiker. The cocoa retailer is tossing an extra penny into its payout to reward investors with an $0.08 per-share dividend every quarter. It's the second time the company has increased its dividend over the past five months. Then again, the company's dividends have fluctuated from quarter to quarter, so keep an eye on Rocky Mountain to see whether it keeps up this sweet trend.

Then we have Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ). The pizza-delivery giant may not be giving its patrons 20% more toppings on their pies, but it has no problem with growing its quarterly dividend by 20% to $0.12 per share. The chain went public in the summer of 2004 and is already off to a good start in that it has increased its dividends every single year. Rival Papa John's (NASDAQ:PZZA) may claim that it's got "better pizzas, better ingredients," but until Papa initiates a dividend policy, it will be Domino's that's giving its investors a little extra spending money for pizza every three months.

Subscribers to our Income Investor newsletter can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew likes these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing to get hiked will be your interest.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.