Applebee's (NASDAQ:APPB) announced pretty tasty results for its first quarter. The company set a record with an earnings gain of 6.7% over last year to $31.7 million, or $0.38 per share. Its system-wide comparable sales increased a modest 3.7%. That's not a tremendous increase, but it is the 27th consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth. Also, total revenue climbed 9.8% to $304.5 million.

In an environment where it's difficult for one restaurant to stand out from the plethora of selections, Applebee's is making a strong effort to distinguish itself. It offers Curbside To Go, which allows hungry folks who have limited time but don't want fast food to call in their order, park in a designated spot, and have food brought to their car. It also teamed with Weight Watchers (NYSE:WTW) to offer a variety of healthy menu options that follow the diet company's successful points system, lending some appeal to a calorie/carbohydrate-conscious consumer. It's little differences like these that seem to allow Applebee's to remain fresh.

The company expects earnings to continue on the same trend. It forecasts second-quarter earnings of $0.36 to $0.38 per share. For the year, it expects earnings of $1.49 to $1.52 per share. While the growth isn't too exciting, it does compare favorably with competition, including Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RI), which recently decreased its estimates. Also, these results come at a time when economists and investors alike are trying to gauge the impact of increasing oil and gas prices and the prospect of inflation, and the extent to which it will curtail consumer activity.

While Applebee's isn't a fast-growing company, it is an industry leader in a rapidly expanding marketplace. It tempts investors with its steady growth and consistent earnings. Investors looking for a reliable, though not flashy, performer may want to consider Applebee's.

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Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own any of the companies in this article.