Whitbread takes axe to 140 restaurant outlets

Whitbread is selling 140 of its restaurant sites and rebranding most of its Beefeater outlets as part of a radical shake-up to boost profits in its restaurant portfolio.

The group has created two new brands for more than half of its 258 Beefeater sites – 80 out-of-town sites will be rebranded as “Out and Out” upmarket restaurants and another 90 prime location sites will become “neighbourhood” restaurants aimed at younger ABC1 customers.

The majority of the remaining sites will be rebranded as other concepts or retained as Beefeater “when there are good trading reasons for doing so”.

Whitbread is also axing 30 of its underperforming Café Rouge sites and ten Bella Pastas, both of which have seen like-for-like sales fall by 0.9 per cent in the past six months.

Announcing the company’s interim results yesterday, which showed a 5.9 per cent fall in overall pre-tax profits, chairman Sir John Banham said any restaurant unable to show like-for-like sales growth of five per cent over the next five years was at risk.

While Brewers Fayre and Beefeater together account for ten per cent of the restaurant division profits, Beefeater like-for-like sales were up just 0.9 per cent in the half year compared with Brewers Fayre, which saw a 4.6 per cent increase.

The company will continue to roll out its new family restaurant brand, Brewsters, bringing the number of sites to 220 by 2004, while also developing the adult-oriented Brewers Fayre brand.

Whitbread plans to expand the Costa Coffee chain to a further 500 outlets in the next five years as well as increase its focus on the Pizza Hut and TGI Fridays brands.

Last month the group put its 3,000-strong pub chain up for sale to focus on its restaurant and leisure division which also includes Marriott hotels and David Lloyd sports clubs.

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