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You know times are tough when just treading water is enough.

But even though

CKE Restaurants

(CKR)

posted a 13% decline in first-quarter profit on Wednesday and saw comparable sales slip 1.8%, Jim Cramer says CKE still managed to deliver in a quarter when its competitors didn't.

Earnings for the company dropped to $14.4 million during the quarter, or 26 cents a share, from $16.6 million, or 31 cents in the year-ado period. Excluding an accounting charge, its income was 29 cents, beating analysts' expectations of 25 cents a share.

Revenue fell 4% to $446.8 million from $466.2 million last year.

While it's difficult to get excited over sluggish sales and numbers that are down, Cramer says Wednesday's results were good enough to consider the future at CKE.

The company has 3,133 locations in 42 states and 14 countries. While this may seem like a lot, it actually pales in comparison to some of its rivals. This means CKE still has plenty of room to grow before reaching saturation.

CKE's home-base and 87% of its Carl Jr.'s chains are located in California, the area hardest hit by the recession. Once the economy turns, those locations are poised to receive a boost.

There has been a gritty price war between fast food chains like

Burger King

(BKC)

,

McDonald's

(MCD) - Get Report

and

Wendy's/Arby's

(WEN) - Get Report

. But the game of how low can you go is hurting these companies' margins.

CKE is staying out of it, refusing to reduce prices on their premium burgers at its Hardee's and Carl's Jr. restaurants. As a result, the company actually saw a margin improvement of 20 basis points in the first quarter.

While the chain does have lower-priced items, it is not resorting to big ad campaigns to promote these items, because that's what everyone else is doing, CEO Andy Puzder told Cramer during "Mad Money" on Wednesday.

Cramer sees this as a positive and argues that once you resort to lowering prices, consumers will always expect a deal or promotion, even when the economy rebounds.

Since Cramer first recommended the stock on May 22, CKE has seen a 12.5% increase in price, closing on Wednesday at $8.70. He is sticking by his speculative play.

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