In an earnings season steeped in tepid quarterly results for consumer-facing companies, Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) is still holding its own.

Starbucks' fiscal third-quarter net income increased 34%, to $279.1 million, or $0.36 per share. Total revenue increased 12%, to $2.9 billion, and same-store sales surged 8%. Even better, the comps growth was driven by increased customer traffic, as opposed to increases in the average ticket. The coffee giant even grew operating margin by 120 basis points, to 13.7%.

These are significant achievements in the current climate. Consumers' constrained budgets could have taken a serious toll on Starbucks in the near term. Shareholders can breathe a sigh of relief at the company's continued strength.

Even on a good day, the competitive landscape for coffee chains can be cruel. McDonald's (NYSE: MCD), which has been aggressively lobbying for the coffee crowd, recently reported its own stellar results. Still, it looks like the Golden Arches didn't take too much momentum from Starbucks.

This week's hot IPO, Dunkin' Brands (Nasdaq: DNKN), reminds us of just how much rivalry Starbucks faces. A peek into Dunkin's IPO filing reveals that coffee and other beverages represent 60% of Dunkin's sales. So much for those doughnuts.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR) also aims to siphon Starbucks' customers with its popular Keurig single-cup brewing system. Starbucks recently announced that it's partnering with Green Mountain to offer its own branded K-Cups for the brewer. That's no competitive advantage, though, since Dunkin' has a K-Cup deal of its own.

Although Starbucks' forward price-to-earnings ratio of 22 may sound pricey compared to stocks like McDonald's, let's not forget that the java giant has recently further focused plans to drive deeper into the China market. That could serve up even more growth for Starbucks -- and justify its current premium.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.