CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKR), which operates the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. chains, last night reported fiscal first-quarter financial results that should please investors. The company said same-store sales at both chains improved year-over-year, and profit margins improved despite the rising meat and cheese costs that other chains, such as Papa John's (NASDAQ:PZZA) and Bob Evans (NASDAQ:BOBE), have bemoaned.

The bottom line: Net income of $11.7 million. It's a significant improvement from last year's quarter, when the company turned in a net loss of $5.8 million on the back of slumping same-store sales at both chains. At the time, the company complained of industry discounting -- we've discussed the Burger Wars before -- as well as mistimed media and product campaigns and training costs. Even then, however, CKE hinted at better days to come.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz took a look at the company's fiscal 2004 results back in April, and had good things to say. Fact is, Hardee's is a solid player in the game that includes McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Wendy's (NYSE:WEN), Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM), Jack in the Box (NYSE:JBX), and scores of others -- scores of scores, really, when national, regional, and local chains are taken into account.

All told, it's fairly remarkable how resilient and responsive fast-food chains have been in recent months. They've moved the market upscale with high-margin items like salads -- I heard folks praising McDonald's greener offerings this weekend. They've responded to the low-carb craze with items like Carl's Jr.'s preposterous "1 lb. Double Six Dollar Burger."

Everyone's supposedly talking health these days. But if you'd put your money in a value pack of fast-food stocks 12 months ago, you might have done pretty well against the S&P 500. It seems that demand for quick, filling meals at competitive prices isn't going anywhere, the evils of white bread and mayonnaise be hanged -- and CKE investors have reaped the benefits of that revelation over the past year.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any companies in this article.