Whitbread to double the size of Costa

The new chief executive of Whitbread wants to rapidly accelerate the expansion of its Premier Inn budget hotel and Costa Coffee chains, he said yesterday, as the company posted a big rise in profits to nearly £290m.

Andy Harrison, the former chief executive of Easyjet who took the helm in November, has vowed to double the size of Costa to 3,500 outlets by 2016 both in the UK and overseas, compared with its previous target of 3,000. Mr Harrison said: "The priority markets [overseas] are China, India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe."

Whitbread, which also runs the Beefeater, Table Table, Taybarns and Brewers Fayre pub restaurants, plans to grow the number of Premier Inn rooms by 50 per cent to at least 65,000 over the next five years.

For the year to 3 March, Whitbread saw pre-tax profits rise by 20.1 per cent to £287.1m, on total sales up by 11.5 per cent to £1.6bn. Strong sales growth at both Costa and Premier Inn has slowed since then but remains positive.