Restaurant Brands International (RBI) (NYSE:QSR), the parent company of Burger King and Tim Hortons, had a strong 2016 largely because it increased profits by operating more efficiently.

What happened

Through the first three quarters of 2016, RBI saw a modest increase in total revenue from $1.61 billion to $1.63 billion. On that small rise in revenue however the company increased its earnings per share (EPS) from $0.26 in 2015 to $0.98 in 2016. In addition, through three quarters, the company also increased its dividend payout to $0.45 in 2016, up from $0.31 the previous year.

Those numbers in part pushed the company's shares higher. After closing 2015 at $37.36, RBI stock finished 2016 at $47.66, a 27% increase, according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.

QSR Chart

QSR data by YCharts.

So what

RBI has managed its business very well. In a market where customers and same-store sales growth is very hard to come by, the company has dramatically increased its profits on sales that are essentially the same. That bodes well for the company which faces a 2017 where market conditions are not likely to improve. CEO Daniel Schwartz commented in the Q3 earnings release, sharing some insights as to why the company has done well. Q3 comparable sales, it should be noted, were up 2% at Tim Hortons and 1.7% at Burger King, an improvement over the first half of the year.

"We continued to grow our iconic brands, Tim Hortons and Burger King, increasing systemwide sales through restaurant development and focus on guest satisfaction," he said. "We are encouraged with the progress this quarter and are excited by the long term-growth prospects for our brands."

A Tim Hortons restaurant.

Tim Hortons and Burger King are RBI brands. Image source: Tim Hortons. 

Now what

RBI followed its solid start to 2016 with strong Q4 results, which it released on Feb. 13. The company saw a slight comparable-sales increase at Tim Hortons (0.2%) while Burger King jumped 2.8%. The company also continued its EPS growth coming in at $0.44, up from $0.32 in Q4 2015.

Those numbers show that both RBI brands enter 2017 on solid footing. They are poised to deliver some growth while also being able to maximize profits even when sales flatten out. That's a strong story for investors as it suggests that the company has been built to not just make money during the good times, but also survive when things are not going as well.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.