Whitbread 'plans Costa expansion'

Ambitious plans to expand the Costa Coffee and Premier Inn chains could be ramped up further when parent Whitbread reports annual results on Tuesday.

Whitbread chief executive Andy Harrison is said to be working on plans to raise the group's growth targets for the coffee and hotel chains as they buck the economic gloom.

In 2011 the leisure group set targets for growing Premier Inn to 65,000 rooms and expanding Costa to 3,500 sites by 2016.

The Sunday Telegraph said the targets may be revised upwards on Tuesday as the chains continue to defy the squeeze on consumer spending.
The newpaper quoted analysts as saying Premier can grow to 75,000 rooms by 2018.

Whitbread is expected to report another double-digit hike in annual profits this week, leaping 14% to £347.6 million thanks to robust trading in its Costa arm.

Costa Coffee delivered a 32.2% leap in total sales in the 11 weeks to February 14 and a 5.5% rise when changes in store space are stripped out.

Costa had 2,516 outlets by February, up from 2,203 in March 2012. It has benefited from robust spending despite the squeeze on consumers' wallets.

Premier Inn had 52,832 rooms by February, up from about 48,700 a year earlier, and has been buoyed by business travellers downgrading.

Whitbread also owns the Brewers Fayre and Beefeater chains. It declined to comment.

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