IHOP (NYSE:IHP), the pancake chain, piled up one the market's biggest percentage gains today. Besides an investment banking firm's upgrade of the stock to "market outperform," the company announced that it has received authorization to repurchase up to 1 million more of its shares, or about 5% of the total shares outstanding.

Since January 2003, the company has repurchased 3.3 million of the 3.6 million shares that it previously authorized. That month also marked the company's implementation of its reorganization plan. Since IHOP stopped providing financing for the development of franchised restaurants, it's had extra cash for marketing, training, and operations. The result: a 7.1% increase in same-store sales in the first quarter of 2004, the largest percentage increase in that figure in 10 years.

The pace of good news has since moderated. In the second quarter, the company reported that six-month same-store sales growth (compared with the comparable quarter the previous year) had fallen from 5.6% in 2004 to 0.8% in 2005. Net income, after adjusting for special items, was up a modest 5.8%. However, all of those share repurchases helped lift the per-share increase to a whopping 13.1%.

The company reiterated its performance guidance for 2005. Because of several sales catalysts planned for the second half, same-store sales are still projected to increase between 2% and 4%. Once completed, the remodeling of 225 to 250 restaurants in 2005 (there are 1,201 total) should help, too, though temporary closures might cramp sales over the short term.

Analysts expect the company to earn $2.11 this year, pricing the stock at 19 times forward earnings. That's pricey for a stock expected to grow earnings at 11.5% annually for the next five years. But the 2.6% dividend is tempting, and IHOP did generate $49.9 million in free cash flow over the past 12 months.

For comparison, Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB) trades at 16 times 2005 estimated earnings and is expected to grow earnings 15% annually over the next five years -- the same five-year growth rate as Outback Steakhouse (NYSE:OSI), which trades at 17 times estimated earnings. Heck, even fast-growing Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE), trading at 28 times estimated 2005 earnings, is expected to grow earnings at a 21.5% annual rate for the next five years.

IHOP's stock has been cooking today, but unless results improve significantly, I don't think its valuation stacks up when compared with its peers.

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. Click here to see the Motley Fool's disclosure policy.