Are you going out to eat a lot more now? Lots of people may be having the same idea. Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB) posted a healthy surge in February same-store sales late yesterday. While the increase was partly attributed to a slightly pricier menu, there are signs of some fat and happy guest traffic.

That's fat traffic, not fat guests. Among the many initiatives Applebee's is trying on for size is a menu sprinkled with Weight Watchers (NYSE:WTW) entrees, for the weight-loss inclined. The Weight Watchers menu items are currently being tested at 70 restaurants and will be launched in 1,600 locations during the summer.

This partnership, however, was originally announced last July -- so, the contrarian in me wants to emphasize that delay, given today's Atkins craze. On the other hand, it just may be a refreshing change (and a good differentiator) for those who are leery of the high-protein diet. That would make Applebee's an alternative to places that are jumping on the Atkins bandwagon, such as Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RI).

More Applebee's plans include a computerized ordering system, which would theoretically speed up the rate at which your hash is slung, as well as a "to-go" program. Takeout is a relatively underutilized concept for a casual-dining chain and could swipe some business from McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) or Wendy's (NYSE:WEN), if convenience is the key.

Applebee's February same-store sales booked 8.4% higher, as opposed to the 3.4% gain this time last year. Menu prices rose a mere 1.5%, while the increased number of guests rose 7.5% to 8%. These numbers even included some damage from ugly wintry weather in some parts of the country over President's Day weekend, as well as the Super Bowl move from January to February.

For the coming year, Applebee's says that it's hiking prices in order to combat rising commodity prices, including beef. That's been a recurring theme in restaurants from Wendy's to Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE).

Before getting too excited about the go-go prospects at Applebee's, it should be interesting to see how other chains fare with recent same-store sales. Has going out to eat gotten so popular again that it's lifting sales across the board? Or is Applebee's hitting a particular and popular niche and beating up on competitors? Keep that fork ready to dig through the data.

Are you wondering who the heck all those people are going to Applebee's, because you prefer to cook and dine at home? Get with other Foolish cooks in the kitchen on the Recipes/Cooking discussion board.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned. Since the chain was founded by Bill and T.J. Palmer, she's a bit curious about who "Applebee" is.