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.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
- Real Money + Doug Kass + 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV