Whitbread, the leisure group, has this morning unveiled strong top-line growth on the back of new openings, and a reduction in like-for-like sales declines for the year, to -0.5%. In the last quarter all of its brands registered positive like-for-like growth – like-for-like sales were up 3.1% in Q4 at a group level. The company, which operates Costa Coffee, Premier Inn and a clutch of pub-restaurant brands such as Beefeater, said it had “outperformed” the market. An extensive opening programme saw it deliver 223 new Costa locations, five new pub-restaurants and 2,240 new Premier Inn rooms. It also updated 95 pub sites, spending an average of £125,000, and also upgraded 8,000 rooms. Overall Whitbread saw underlying profits up 6.6% to £239.1m on sales up 7.5% to £1.435bn. The year was an “outstanding” one for Costa Coffee, said Whitbread, with like-for-like sales up 5.5% – the brand had now enjoyed 32 consecutive quarters of growth. System sales rose 28.3% on the back of an extensive opening programme that saw it add 223 new locations, of which 188 were in the UK. Operating profits rose 58.8% to £35.9m. Costa now comprises 1,600 stores – 1,069 in the UK and 531 overseas, and is now Whitbread said the second largest international coffee shop operator. During the year, it also acquired the 89-strong Poland-based Coffeeheaven business, establishing a significant foothold in central and eastern Europe. In the coming year it aimed to expand overseas operations by 120 stores, targeting key markets such as China, India, Russia, the Middle East and central Europe. The firm said the introduction of the flat white coffee to its drinks menu at Costa had helped drive incremental sales At Whitbread’s hotels and restaurants arm, comprising its pub restaurant brands and Premier Inn lodge business, revenues rose 3.2% to £1.096bn. Like-for-like sales at its pubs business, which contains the Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Taybarns formats, like-for-like sales rose 1.7%, with overall revenues up 1.3% to £466.2m. Whitbread said the like-for-like performance was supported by increases in average spend and a like-for-like covers increase of 1.4%. Customer recommendation ‘metrics’ rose 5.6%. It opened five new pub-restaurants, to take its estate to 373, of which 333 are located next to a Premier Inn. It also refurbished 95 sites, at an average spend of £125,000. Premier Inn like-for-like sales were down 4.3% for the year, although it had been a story of gradual like-for-like improvement from Q1 to Q4, with like-for-like declines moving up from -7.9 in Q1 to +2.0% in Q4. Total revenues at Premier Inn were up 4.7% to £629.8m on the back of the addition of 2,240 rooms in the period, 1,624 of which were in the UK. At the same time the group updated 8,000 rooms. In the period 11 hotel properties were opened in the regions plus one in London, taking it to 42,799 rooms across 588 sites. “Regional” revpar was down 6.4% against a decline of 8.5% in the regional budget sector and a decline of 9.6% across the whole regional hotel market. Average occupancy was 80%. A new Premier Inn website has increased visits to the site by 80%, to three million visits a month. The company said it would make an additional £8m marketing investment in its hotels and pub-restaurants businesses. During the year – to 4 March 2010 – net debt was £109.7m lower at £513.4m. The group’s total debt facilities currently stands at £1.155bn, providing ample headroom for the future, it said. The company said that while the level of economic recovery remained unclear, the first seven weeks of the financial year had started well, with positive momentum across the business.