Whitbread is establishing a land bank in the expectation of a slew of cheap property deals after it decided to scale down capital expenditure by a third this financial year.

The group, whose brands include the Premier Inn budget hotel chain, Costa Coffee and the Beefeater and Brewers Fayre restaurant chains, is pulling 2008-09 capex back from £300m to £200m and is aiming for a landbank of 1,000 rooms.

'We expect to pick up sites cheaper than we have been for some years,' Alan Parker, chief executive, said. 'We think land today will be cheaper than in a couple of years’ time.'

The capital expenditure retrenchment will mean the growth in room count will slow from 4,000 this year to 2,000 in 2009-10. However, London room growth remained a priority, Mr Parker said.

Financial Times