On that point, same-store sales are the foundation of our multilayered growth strategy and we believe that positive same-store sales in combination with other elements of our business can lead to consistent double-digit earnings growth rate. The third quarter was a good example of this with a 14% increase in earnings as we had moderate single-digit same-store sales led to an improvement in operating margins and higher franchise revenue as well. So a further benefit from our -- in the quarter, further benefit from our use of excess cash flow for share repurchases.
On that last point, we completed our $30 million share repurchase program in early June. We repurchased more than 4 million shares, which represents -- from the beginning of the fiscal year, represents more than 6% of the outstanding shares. We continue to -- we will continue to generate strong free cash flow. And so, over time, we'll continuously evaluate our options for the best use of our capital, whether it is in various ways of investing in our brand, repurchasing shares or paying down debt.
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