UK: Whitbread upbeat despite consumer pressure

Whitbread today reassured over its “resilience” in the consumer downturn after the leisure group posted a 7.1% rise in first quarter comparable sales.

The Beefeater and Costa Coffee firm said it was reviewing menus and cutting costs to counter food price inflation at its pub restaurant arm, with cheaper meals also now on offer for cash-strapped consumers.

Its Premier Inn hotel chain saw double digit sales growth in the 13 weeks to May 29, up 10.7% on a like-for-like basis, as it said the brand continued to “outperform” the market.

A 3.6% increase in like-for-like sales at its pub restaurant arm suggested that trading had picked up since its year end, with analysts at Panmure Gordon expecting 1% from the division and 5.5% overall.

Alan Parker, chief executive of Whitbread, said the group remained wary of a worsening in trading conditions, but sounded a confident note over the company’s prospects.

He said: “The resilience of our businesses combined with cost actions we have taken, our investment pipeline and our strong balance sheet put us in a good position to continue the disciplined development of the group.”

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