Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain has said she is encouraged by the early momentum in food sales at Costa, but has stressed the brand will need to “re-teach” customers.

Brittain said she also wanted to be more “sophisticated” when it comes to prices increases, saying the group was examining flexibility within breakfast and lunch meal deals rather than the standard 10p addition to a cup of coffee. However, she insisted that customer reaction had so far been “muted” on standard price hikes.

She said the rollout of click & collect across the estate had been delayed by the implementation of a new till system, but that this would be completed in 2018.

On food sales, Brittain said there had been a “really good uplift on breakfast food performance” with a 9% increase in food penetration. She said the new hot food range had also launched successfully with Mac & Cheese “flying off the shelves”.

She added: “Don’t forget you have to re-teach customers that they can come at lunch time because they don’t instantly know that. Those that are regulars do because they see it immediately but those that haven’t wouldn’t come to Costa because they know that Costa hasn’t historically done a lunch off or had fresh salads on offer or any healthy eating options. They will need to be retrained in some ways or told and communicated with and that will take some time for that business to grow but we’re very confident in the early results being on point for customers in terms of taste.”

On price increases, she said: “There have been constant price increase each year. It’s not the first lever that we would pull but it is a lever that’s available.

“I think I would rather we were more sophisticated at it than we’ve historically been which has been a bit of a blunt expense on to the standard cup. I know Dominic (Paul, MD Costa) is thinking about how we bundle pricing for lunch and breakfast deals etc, which is a much more innovative and flexible way of changing price than a standard expense on a cup. The options available to us are limitless and whether we’ll take them or not we will decide as we move through the year.”