Spotlight On... Andy Harrison, chief executive, Whitbread

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The Independent Online

Isn't he the budget man?

Sort of. He is the chap who used to run the airline easyJet and now is chief executive of Whitbread, the owner of the budget hotel chain Premier Inn, as well as Costa Coffee.

What's he like?

He's a high flyer, quite literally, holding a private pilot's licence, as well as entering business with an economics degree from Cambridge. But it's fair to say Mr Harrison has never warmed to life in the spotlight, despite five years as boss of easyJet and leading Whitbread since September 2010.

How does he comes across?

Mr Harrison is perfectly polite but some say he is as a bit prickly, defensive and direct. But maybe he is merely focused and careful around journalists.

What does he compare to his predecessor?

Alan Parker was a tough act to follow in terms of press relations. He was smoother than one of Costa's flat-white coffees.

What about the numbers?

Under both chaps, Costa Coffee has continued to power ahead and has now delivered underlying sales growth for a remarkable 40 consecutive quarters.

And the favourite haunt of stag and hen parties?

While Premier Inn has been a success story over recent years, its fortunes have tended to more reflect the economic climate.

Come again?

The budget hotel chain suffered a rare 0.9 per cent fall in underlying sales over the 11 weeks to 16 February, worse than some City analysts had expected.

Any regional differences?

The London market, in general, has been far more resilient for sometime.

What's his strategy?

Whitbread wants to grow the number of Premier Inn UK rooms by nearly 50 per cent to at least 65,000 by 2015-16. It aims to nearly double the size of Costa to 3,500 outlets worldwide.

Global coffee domination?

Not far off. It currently has 1,375 stores in the UK and 802 overseas, including in China, Serbia, Greece, Russia and Montenegro.