Whitbread has reiterated its commitment to upscaling the restaurants that support its flagship Premier Inn hotel operation.
Its joint site restaurants continue to play an important role in serving Premier Inn guests and delivering higher revpar and returns.
Preliminary annual results published this morning reveal that its Restaurants business saw total sales increase 1.2% and while like-for-like sales only rose 0.3% the company said it continues to perform ahead of its competitor set.
More significantly, Whitbread said there would be no let-up in its plans to inject fresh investment into its hotel restaurant estate.
“We continue to make good progress in rejuvenating our restaurant brands, converting a further 53 restaurants to our modern ‘Orange Cow’ Beefeater concept and are on track to complete the remaining conversions in the first half of 2017/18,” it said.
Whitbread has previously told of how investment in new equipment has helped it to make improvements in serving healthier food to guests. Last year it carried out a huge roll-out programme of Rational combi ovens at its in-house restaurants. These ovens are now in use in over 50% of its hotel restaurants.
Whitbread opened 25 net new Premier Inns in 2017, taking the total number of hotels in the UK to 762, over 200 more than its nearest competitor. It currently owns 68,000 hotel rooms but intends to reach 85,000 in the next three years.
It also revealed its desire to grow its new contemporary city centre restaurant format, Bar + Block. “It is trading well and receiving very high customer satisfaction scores. We now have one open in London, one in Birmingham and one in Fareham, with five planned to open during 2017/18,” the company said.
The hospitality giant’s preliminary results showed that total sales for the group, which also includes coffee shop chain Costa, rose 8% year-on-year to £3.1 billion. Underlying profit before tax climbed 6% to £565m.
“In 2016/17 we made good progress in delivering on our three strategic priorities: to grow and innovate in our core UK businesses; to focus on our strengths to grow internationally; and to build the capability and infrastructure to support long-term growth,” said Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread.
Brittain noted that the firm would take a “disciplined” approach to capital management in the year ahead. In November it announced a £150m cost efficiency programme to help offset investment and sector cost pressures.
“We have made good progress this year in areas such as procurement, supplier consolidation and labour scheduling, which has helped maintain margins,” she said.