Bill Ackman doesn't really need income from the stocks he owns. The hedge fund manager's net worth totals $3.5 billion. But he likes to generate the highest total return possible for Pershing Square Capital Management. And Ackman knows that dividends can boost total returns.

Still, four of the six stocks the billionaire owns either don't pay a dividend at all or have a low dividend yield of below 1%. One, however, offers an especially attractive dividend. Should you buy Ackman's top dividend stock?

A dividend to savor

Ackman seems to really like restaurant stocks. More than 35% of his Pershing Square portfolio is invested in restaurant operators. But one of those restaurant stocks really has a dividend to savor -- Restaurant Brands International (QSR 0.46%).

Restaurant Brands International's dividend yield currently tops 3.4%. The company's dividend hasn't always been so juicy. However, in 2018, Restaurant Brands more than doubled its dividend payout. 

Even before then, the restaurant operator was committed to its dividend program. Restaurant Brands International has increased its dividend every year since it was formed in 2014 through the merger of Burger King and Tim Hortons.

The company should have room for at least modest dividend growth going forward. Restaurant Brands' dividend-payout ratio of 66.5% provides some flexibility in boosting the dividend.

Examining the business

Investors don't prosper by dividends alone, though. It's important to examine the underlying business behind any stock to make sure there aren't any serious problems. The good news for Restaurant Brands International is that its business appears to be solid.

In addition to Burger King and Tim Hortons, the company owns two other restaurant chains -- Firehouse Subs and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. All four businesses delivered sales growth in 2022. Three of them generated double-digit percentage growth.

Restaurant Brands International posted total revenue last year of nearly $1.7 billion, up 9.2% year over year. Some of this growth stemmed from the December 2021 acquisition of Firehouse Subs.

The company's bottom line looks healthy as well. Restaurant Brands generated a profit of $336 million in 2022, a 28.2% increase over the prior year.

One strike against Restaurant Brands International, though, is its debt of $14.4 billion. The restaurant operator spent more than $500 million last year in interest payments. 

Restaurant Brands also has a new (and relatively young) CEO at the helm. On March 1, 2023, the company appointed Joshua Kobza as CEO, replacing José Cil. Kobza has been with Restaurant Brands for 11 years, previously serving as chief operating officer since 2019.

Is Restaurant Brands International stock a buy?

Ackman has made plenty of money from his investment in Restaurant Brands International. The stock has delivered a total return of close to 130% over the last 10 years. However, that's roughly in line with the total return that the S&P 500 generated during the period. 

More recently, Restaurant Brands has been a bigger winner. The stock is up around 15% over the last 12 months, handily beating the S&P 500.

My view is that the stock's valuation (shares trade at around 15.7 times expected earnings) is reasonable despite the solid gains. I also think that Restaurant Brands' growth could pick up.

The company's efforts to increase sales and profitability in its Burger King business -- an initiative it calls "Reclaim the Flame" -- could pay off over the coming years. It could boost profits further by making Popeyes restaurants more efficient. Restaurant Brands also has a solid growth opportunity in taking Firehouse Subs international.

Overall, the stock isn't a bad pick, especially for income investors. However, I think there are other stocks with even better growth prospects and dividends that are as attractive as what Restaurant Brands offers.