Amid the levity of a falling market and an avalanche of earnings releases, it's refreshing to hear a CEO having a little fun with his business. Jim Keyes of convenience store giant 7-Eleven (NYSE:SE) is the clear winner of this quarter's award for obscure and comic references, crediting a portion of his company's solid first-quarter results to the new SpongeBob Under the Sea Pineapple Slurpee. No doubt having his company pitted against Lloyd's (NYSE:LYG) in the The Motley Fool's Stock Madness 2005 went to his head. But the company definitely had its pants on squarely this quarter.

Total revenues were up 8.7%, driven by comparable merchandise sales growth of 4.6%. This is the company's 34th consecutive quarter of positive merchandise comps, and this one is particularly noteworthy because it's on top of a strong 6.1% increase in the same quarter last year. Fuel sales were the biggest driver, with an increase of 16.4%. That's not surprising with the spike in gas prices this spring, but what really impresses cartoon lovers is the 12.5-cent fuel margin, only slightly down from last year, and avoiding the noxious fumes that have spoiled the party recently for other fuel retailers, like Costco (NASDAQ:COST).

Earnings according to generally accepted accounting principles were $0.18 per share compared with $0.04 in the prior year's quarter, but for more accurate results, look to core earnings, which exclude unusual items. Those earnings were $0.13 per share compared with $0.11 last year, slightly below analyst expectations at $0.14, but still a nifty 17% improvement.

Fresh food is what 7-Eleven is using to drive the business these days, with sales up 17% for the quarter. "Big Eats" cool sandwiches, steak and cheese taquitos, and the first-quarter launch of a bevy of sandwich wraps continued the success in that category. Over the past few years, the company has invested heavily in upgrading its fresh-food distribution network, which appears to be paying off handsomely in improved fresh merchandise and lower costs.

Investors should be encouraged by the focus on quality products and consistent execution. With more than 26,000 stores worldwide, this is a company that must improve on what it has instead of trying heavy new store growth like Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) or Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) have done. It's not an easy chore for a franchise network, but 7-Eleven appears to be getting its act together. After years of bouncing around between $8 and $15 per share, the stock began to break out 18 months ago and has enjoyed a steady rise into the mid-$20s. A solid first quarter will probably be just what it needs to keep the momentum going.

For more thoughts on the home of the Slurpee, see:

Fool contributor Timothy M. Otte was once immobilized for days by a Slurpee-induced brain freeze. He owns no stock in the companies mentioned in this article.