Whitbread brews up 10,000 new jobs

Costa Coffee and Premier Inn's parent company wants to branch out at home and abroad. Although last year wasn't easy.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 19 Jun 2012
As if the UK’s appetite for coffee wasn’t already more than satiated, Whitbread, the owner of Premier Inn and Costa Coffee, has announced that it wants to create 10,000 jobs in the UK over the next three years. Obviously, that’s great news for all the prospective baristas and chamber maids out there, many of whom will be among the one million plus unemployed 16-24 year-olds. Less great for the nation’s already ravaged concentration span…

Despite the downturn, Whitbread seems to be full of beans: the company said like-for-like sales rose by 1.8% in the 11 weeks to mid-February – although that’s a bit slower than the 2.4% growth it saw in its previous quarter.

Admittedly, Premier Inn did suffer a bit as a result of the squeeze on consumer spending, with like-for-like sales falling by 0.9% in the period, while revpar (revenue per room, natch) fell by 3%. Over the full year, though, sales at Premier rose by 3.4%. And its enthusiasm for growth seems to be unabated: it added 4,000 new beds to its hotels in the UK and Ireland during 2011, which puts the total up to 44,000.

Costa, on the other hand, was going great guns: like-for-like sales at the chain rose by 6.2% during its final quarter, largely because of its popularity over Christmas. Apparently, its praline and cream coffee was its best seller – the chain sold over 900,000 cups of the (rather disgusting-sounding) stuff over Christmas, which is a 60% rise on the year before. Things went well at its restaurants division, too (which includes Beefeater and Brewers Fayre): like-for-like revenues rose by 2.2% over the period.

But despite its commitment to create jobs in the UK (although we're not sure where - is there anywhere that doesn't already have a Costa?), the company says it also wants to focus on international expansion: Costa now has more than 100 stores in India, and 160 in China, so things seem to be going well. Sadly, though, Whitbread reckons it’s one of the few businesses that won’t benefit much from the Olympics: apparently, just 15-20 of its 620 hotels are near the Olympics site in Stratford, at which there are still rooms available. Surely that won’t last for long…

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