WHITBREAD posted a strong start to its financial year as cold weather boosted sales of hot drinks at Costa but kept customers away from its restaurants.
The FTSE 100 firm, which also owns Premier Inn hotels and restaurants such as Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, said like-for-like sales rose 3.1 per cent in the three months to 30 May, while total sales including new sites were up 13.8 per cent.
Chief executive Andy Harrison said these figures reflected a good start in the face of several “unusual factors” including the coldest spring since 1962, the shift in the half-term week this year, and tough comparisons on last year, which benefited from an extra bank holiday weekend.
Whitbread said its performance was underpinned by an eight per cent rise in underlying sales at UK Costa stores, while total sales grew 23.1 per cent to £281.8m.
Underlying sales at Premier Inn were also up, growing 2.7 per cent, helping to offset flat takings at its restaurant arm, after cold weather deterred customers from eating out.
In April the firm unveiled new targets to grow Premier Inn UK rooms by 45 per cent to 75,000 by 2018, and double total sales at Costa Coffee to £2bn through expansion at home and abroad, with particular focus on China.
The group confirmed yesterday it planned to open 300 net new Costa stores this year. It opened 794 rooms and three joint site restaurants in the quarter and plans to open 4,000 rooms and 10 joint site restaurants in the year.