Wendy's International Inc. (WEN) Monday said sales at company-owned U.S. restaurants open at least 15 months rose 0.5 percent, above several analysts' estimates and the first increase since August.

Shares of Wendy's, which also raised its dividend by 12.5 percent, rose more than 1 percent following the announcement.

Same-store sales, a key retail measure, rose 1.4 percent to 1.6 percent at Wendy's U.S. franchised restaurants in the period ended Feb. 6.

Three Wall Street analysts' forecasts had ranged from a decline of 1.5 percent to flat for both franchised and company-owned stores.

Wendy's, the No. 3 U.S. burger chain, has suffered in recent months due to stepped up competition from larger rivals McDonald's Corp. (MCD) and Burger King Corp (search). The Dublin, Ohio-based chain late last year changed its advertising and has been rolling out new products and initiatives in a bid to regain market share.

As part of that plan, Wendy's in December began selling combination meals that let customers choose chili, a baked potato or salad instead of the French fries traditionally offered with such meals.

J.P. Morgan analyst John Ivankoe said the company's shift in marketing toward the so-called "combo choices" and away from the unpopular "Mr. Wendy" campaign benefited the chain during the period.

Wendy's new annual dividend rate is 54 cents a share, up from 48 cents. The next quarterly dividend — 13.5 cents share — is payable March 4 to shareholders of record Feb. 17, the company said.

The company's shares were up 48 cents, or 1.2 percent, at $40.30 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).