texasroadhouse1Texas Roadhouse just served up some sizzling financial results, showing it is one of the prime names in the chain restaurant game. The firm not only had notable growth in sales and profits, but also continued to open new restaurants, and got a massive infusion of cash.

The firm shared these results in a conference call, which took place on May 4, and featured Kent Taylor, Texas Roadhouse CEO, Scott Colosi, its president, and Tonya Robinson, senior director of investor relations, as well as analysts who cover the firm. The call concerned results for the first quarter of 2015, which ended March 31.

Texas Roadhouse had strong quarterly results, as sales rose 16 percent, year-over-year, to $460.2 million, and net income rose 22 percent, to $32.3 million. The chain has had 20 straight quarters, or five years, of sales growth.

The chain’s same-store comparison sales also were strong, up 8.9 percent in the quarter. “Increased traffic has been the main driver, which we believe (is) a result of our continued focus on offering our guests legendary food and legendary service at a decent price,” said Taylor.

Investors will be tantalized by the firm’s cash reserves. At the end of the quarter it had $24 million in cash-on-hand (called “free cash flow” in the report). Colosi said this gives Texas Roadhouse more flexibility to “enhance shareholder returns in the future.” He didn’t say how the chain would do this, but often firms with bucks in the bank will do things like raise dividends or buy back shares. Either way, Texas Roadhouse shareholders would win. The firm’s annual dividend is 1.95 percent.

The company also opened six new locations year-to-date, including another Bubba’s 33 restaurant, a new concept it launched in 2014. The firm also has another 17 new restaurants being built, with an expectation that these will be open by September. These new spots, by the way, are owned by the corporation; an additional four-to-six other franchised restaurants also are expected to open this year.

The highest-volume restaurants in the chain are among the strongest traffic drivers. To maximize profits at these locations, the chain has added additional seats.

CEO Taylor also discussed Bubba’s 33. Bubba’s serves less formal offerings than Texas Roadhouse with a focus on appetizers, burgers, beer and sandwiches. There are currently four open, with another three slated to open by the end of next quarter.

Taylor said there’s no cannibalization of sales between Bubba’s and Texas Roadhouse, though the Bubba’s spots are built within a couple miles of Texas Roadhouses. “And the next three restaurants are all three within a quarter mile of a Texas Roadhouse,” he said, “so we’ll know more then.”

This growth at Texas Roadhouse came even as it faced higher healthcare expenses. The firm said it would incur from $5-to-$6 million in additional expenses in 2015 related to changes in health care laws. The higher charges are being paid over the course of the year, with a third having been paid so far.

At the start of 2015, the definition of a full-time employee at large companies was changed, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, to include anyone working 30 hours a week or more.

Because of these changes, Texas Roadhouse saw its healthcare enrollment go from 2,400 employees at the end of 2014 to close to 5,000 at the start of 2015. The firm has 43,000 total employees. Mark Simpson, vice president of human relations at Texas Roadhouse, said the firm believes these changes will be positive. “If we do the right thing by our employees, our employees will do the right thing by our guests,” he said. “It comes back to you.”