Marriott Corp. said yesterday that its profit rose 16 percent in 1987 and that sales advanced 24 percent, and reported improved business in all three of the company's major areas -- hotels, contract food services and restaurants.

The Bethesda-based company, the largest in the Washington area, said it earned $223 million ($1.67 a share) in 1987, up from $191.7 million ($1.40) a year ago. Revenue during the year rose to $6.5 billion from $5.3 billion in 1986.

For the fourth quarter of 1987, Marriott earned $61.7 million (48 cents), up 10 percent from $56.2 million (41 cents) a year ago. Fourth-quarter sales were $2.1 billion, up 14 percent from $1.9 billion in 1986.

Revenue increased in all three of the company's major businesses in 1987: 33 percent in contract food services, 20 percent in hotels, and 10 percent in restaurants. Marriott does not break out profits from each category. Financial analysts called the results in line with or slightly below expectations.

"It's a pretty good quarter in the hotel group, a satisfying quarter in the restaurant group, but a little sloppy in contract food services," said John J. Rohs, who follows the company for Wertheim Schroder.

The problem in contract food services comes mostly in Marriott's In-Flite Services division, which is the largest caterer of airline meals in the nation. "A major problem is airlines cutting back on meal service on flights under two hours," said Rohs, who added that airlines also have cut back on what they spend on the meals.

Last year was not a glamorous year for the hotel industry, but Marriott achieved a modest increase in occupancy and room rates, experts said.

Daniel R. Lee, an analyst at Drexel Burnham Lambert, called the fourth-quarter results "a little disappointing."

But J.W. (Bill) Marriott Jr., the company's chairman and president, said, "We're fine. ... Any time I can get 20 percent {increase} on $6.52 billion, I'm OK." He added that there are only a half-dozen companies in the country that get 20 percent annual increases on nearly $7 billion in sales.

"Maybe they've grown to expect too much," Marriott said of the analysts, "but we haven't overshot either."

Marriott Corp. had several unusual costs in the fourth quarter, including interest expenses that increased 50 percent for the year when the company financed recent acquisitions and repurchases of about 13.6 million shares of its common stock. Gannett Co. Inc., the Arlington-based communications conglomerate, yesterday said that its 1987 profit increased 16 percent, to $319.4 million ($1.98) from $276.4 million ($1.71) the previous year. Revenue for the year was $3.1 billion, a 10 percent increase compared with $2.8 billion in 1986.

For the fourth quarter, Gannett's net income was $106.6 million (66 cents), up 20 percent from $88.8 million (55 cents). Fourth-quarter revenue was $835.4 million, up 7 percent from $781.5 million for the same period the previous year.

The gains reflected higher earnings from classified advertising in the company's larger local newspapers, Gannett officials said. Harman International Industries Inc., a Washington manufacturer of audio and video products, said it earned $3.6 million (42 cents) in its second quarter, compared with $2.3 million (31 cents) for the same period a year earlier. Revenue in the quarter rose to $120.3 million from $83.4 million.

During the first half of its fiscal year, Harman International had earnings of $6.1 million (72 cents), compared with $3.9 million (57 cents) a year earlier. Sales were $219.1 million, up 46 percent from $150.4 million. Insituform East Inc., a Landover company that repairs sewers and other underground pipelines, said it earned $532,432 (11 cents) in its second fiscal quarter, nearly double the $270,954 (6 cents) a year ago. Sales in the quarter rose to $5.3 million from $4.2 million. For the first six months of its fiscal year, the company earned $1.1 million (24 cents), compared with $603,707 (13 cents) in the previous year. Sales in the period rose to $9.8 million from $7.9 million.