Too many investors take their quarterly dividend checks, cash them in, and fail to realize the significance of the distribution. A company is showing its state of fiscal health by generating that check. What do you think it means when that same company decides to pay its shareholders a little more? That's right, it's a company that is feeling a little more confident about its future earning power. Readers of the Income Investor newsletter can certainly appreciate that kind of thinking.

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

We can start with CBRL Group (NASDAQ:CBRL). The company behind the Cracker Barrel and Logan's Roadhouse chains isn't content just to rock back and forth like one of its satisfied diners in a rocking chair on the Cracker Barrel porch. A few months ago, the company executed a tender offer to repurchase some of its shares. Now it is propping up its dividend.

CBRL investors -- like me -- will now be receiving $0.14 a share every three months. This is the fourth year in a row in which the restaurateur has increased its distribution rate.

CBRL wasn't the only casual-dining specialist to put a little more meat on the shareholder plate. Darden Restaurants (NYSE:DRI) kicked in with a 15% hike, growing its quarterly dividend to $0.23 a share. Even if growth at the company behind Red Lobster and Olive Garden has been relatively lackluster lately, the company's aggressive share buybacks gives it the flexibility to up the ante now that its distributions are divided by fewer shares.

TexasInstruments (NYSE:TXN) was another hiker. The semiconductor giant is raising its quarterly dividend by 33% to $0.04 a share. The company has also been buying back its shares at a feverish pace, reducing its outstanding share count by 10% over the past two years. Despite what appears to be a pretty small dividend of four measly pennies, keep in mind that Texas Instruments has been paying uninterrupted dividends since 1962.

Then we have DENTSPLY (NASDAQ:XRAY). The provider of dental supplies is putting its money where its cavity-free mouth is with a 14% spike in its quarterly distribution rate. As the ticker symbol implies, DENTSPLY is a force in dental X-ray film and equipment, but it is also stocking dentists' offices all around the world with things like dental sealants, prophylaxis paste, and orthodontic appliances.

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

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

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does own shares in CBRL Group. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Fool has a disclosure policy.