The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Whitbread explores sale of Beefeater restaurant­s

- By Oliver Gill

WHITBREAD is laying the groundwork for a sale of part of its £700m pub and restaurant arm in a move that could place its Beefeater steakhouse chain on the chopping block.

The FTSE 100 hospitalit­y giant is understood to have hired advisers to explore options for the division, which also houses the Brewers Fayre pub chain, amid concerns that poor food and drink sales are weighing on the wider business.

The move is the latest chapter in the sell-off of the one-time brewer as bosses focus on repeating the UK success of its flagship hotel chain, Premier Inn, in Germany.

Sources said discussion­s are at a preliminar­y stage and insisted only a “small part” of Whitbread’s food and drink operations was under considerat­ion.

It follows a warning in Whitbread’s recent annual report of “the increasing divergence of performanc­e of the hotel business and the food and beverage business”. This could have a detrimenta­l effect on the premium charged by Premier Inn for rooms compared with its rivals, Whitbread said.

Whitbread’s accommodat­ion group sales grew by 27pc in the year to March compared with a year earlier, while food and beverage sales by 4pc. “The expected bounce back following the removal of trading restrictio­ns last year has not materialis­ed fully,” the company said in its annual report.

Beefeater is the oldest brand owned by the FTSE 100 company after being set up by the then Whitbread Brewery almost half a century ago. It is one of Whitbread’s two biggest food and beverage businesses alongside 161-site pub chain Brewers Fayre.

Whitbread’s advisers are understood to have begun contacting potentiall­y interested parties, asking them to sign non-disclosure agreements ahead of a formal sales process.

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