Whitbread tightens investment as Premier Inn sales grow

Hotel and restaurant chain business Whitbread has bucked the recession trend and reported an increase in sales.

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Hotel and restaurant chain business Whitbread has bucked the recession trend and reported an increase in sales.

The group, which also owns the coffee chain Costa, and the pub-restaurant businesses Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, is a leader in using technology in its sector.

The Whitbread group reported a group wide sales increase of 13.4 percent, and an increase in like-for-like sales of 7.4 percent. Premier Inn was the best performing division, achieving like-for-like growth of 8.5 per cent over the 39 weeks on the back of a 5 percent increase in revenue per available room. Its restaurant business has also seen sales rise by 5.9 percent.

Discussing the boom in hotel bookings, chief executive officer Alan Parker said its Business Account is attracting new customers.

Whitbread is currently mid-way through the introduction of online check-in and introducing check-in kiosks at its hotel chains. CIO Ben Wishart is leading the project and told CIO recently that “IT is the backbone of the business.”

Despite the positive results, Parker said in a conference call that November had seen a drop in sales and that projects are being re-considered in the light of a possible difficult market ahead. “We have been reviewing our future development plans as the macro economic situation has become increasingly challenging. We believe that while this environment remains we should take a more prudent approach to organic expansion.”

IT projects were not singled out and Parker said “selected new high returning projects” will continue to be invested in.

But Whitbread admitted it was cutting capital spending to around £200 million in the 12 months to February 2010, compared to £300m in the current financial year.

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