Costa sets up a 'flying start' at Whitbread

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The Independent Online

Whitbread has got off to a "flying start" in the new financial year, according to the chief executive of Britain's biggest hotel and restaurant group, Andy Harrison.

Mr Harrison said: "Total sales rose by 13.8 per cent in the first quarter with like-for-like sales up by 3.1 per cent. What that total sales growth shows is that we are substantially increasing our market share in what is basically a flat economy."

Based on like-for-like sales, Whitbread's big driver remained Costa coffee with an 8 per cent rise, followed by Premier Inns with a 2.7 per cent increase, with the restaurants – which include Beefeater Grills and Brewers Fayre – hit by bad weather in March, showing nil growth.

In London, despite it being almost a year on from the Olympics, Premier Inns revenues rose by 19.9 per cent and Mr Harrison said he wanted to grow the number of Premier Inns rooms in the capital from just over 8,000 to 20,000 by 2018. He said: "Property prices in London have been much more realistic since the financial crisis hit in 2008. Our most recent openings have included a former KPMG office block in Blackfriars and a Victorian maternity hospital in Waterloo. Premier Inns' share of the London market is still below our national average."

Costa's total sales rose 23 per cent to £281.8m with 60 new stores globally – 39 in the UK alone – taking the total to 2,587. Whitbread's shares topped the FTSE 100, rising 106p to 3,031p.