LEISURE group Whitbread has moved into the self-serve coffee market with the £59.5m takeover of Coffee Nation.
The group, which already owns Costa Coffee, will use the purchase to develop a new brand called Costa Express.
It hopes to have 3,000 Costa Express bars in the UK over the next five years. Coffee Nation has 900 self-serve sites, including ones at Tesco stores and Moto and Welcome Break services stations. They differ from typical hot drink vending machines by using fresh milk and freshly ground coffee.
Whitbread’s Costa Coffee arm is one of the UK’s largest coffee shop brands with more than 1,200 outlets and another 650 sites overseas.
Costa, which has three shops in Huddersfield, is on track to open 300 stores in the current financial year.
Whitbread said total sales at Costa rose by 28.5% in the 50 weeks to February 17. Like-for-like sales were up by 7.9%, but this rate slowed to 3% in the final 11 weeks of the period as Costa faced more challenging trading conditions.
The group, which also operates Premier Inn and the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurants, said like-for-like sales increased by 3.9% in the 11 weeks against 6.7% for the wider 50-week period.
Premier Inn’s like-for-like sales were 5.1% higher in the 11 weeks, resulting in growth of 8.8% for the 50 weeks, while the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre business posted growth of 3.1% and 3.3% respectively.
Whitbread said the restaurants recovered well from difficult trading during adverse weather in the run-up to Christmas.
By the end of the current financial year, it expects to have opened new 22 hotels – including one at Aspley – as well as eight restaurants. At present, it operates 593 hotels and 378 restaurants.