Whitbread sales growth accelerates in second quarter

Hotel and restaurant operator Whitbread has posted accelerating sales growth for the past three months as consumers splashed out on branded coffees and nights in hotels.

Whitbread, the UK’s biggest hotel and restaurant operator, said like for like sales were up 4.8 per cent in the second quarter, driven by demand in its Premier Inn and Costa Coffee chains.

That compared to 3.2 per cent like for like sales growth in the first half of the year.

Whitbread, whose brands also include Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurants, said overall sales grew at 11 per cent in the first half and 12.9 per cent in the past three months.

The news sent Whitbread's shares up more than six per cent in early trading.

In a statement, chief executive Andy Harrison said Premier Inn saw growth across the UK but particularly in London, leading to a 7.1 per cent rise in sales at hotels open for more than a year.

But like for like sales at the group's pub restaurants were down 1.6 per cent and he cautioned that customers still showed signs of financial pressure.

“Trading in our restaurants continues to be challenging, with customers being particularly price sensitive,” he said.

Nonetheless, appetite for takeaway coffees revived, with Costa Coffee like-for-like sales rising by 9.7 per cent in the past quarter.

"We have traded well in the first 24 weeks as a whole. On a month by month basis, trading continues to be variable with the second quarter benefiting from a strong June, whilst the first quarter was held back by a poor April," Harrison said.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers said Whitbread had "maintained its momentum from the first quarter".

"Whitbread has capitalised on its value-focused Premier Inns business, whilst the contribution from Costa Coffee is robust," Hunter said.

"The company has also highlighted that its current balance sheet strength is sufficient to withstand further investment, although there was a slight air of caution in its description of the current trading environment as variable."