Shares in Whitbread were down on the FTSE 100 in morning trading despite the company reporting "impressive growth" in the third quarter ended 2 December.

The group's like for like sales increased 6.8 per cent in the period, while total sales were up 13.6 per cent.

Whitbread's Premier Inn business saw total sales increase 12.7 per cent and like for like sales rise 8.7 per cent. The group's Restaurants saw total sales climb 1.3 per cent and like for like sales rise 1.5 per cent.

The Hotels and Restaurants division reported a rise in total sales of 8.2 per cent and an increase in like for like sales of 5.9 per cent.

Whitbread's star performer however was its chain of Costa outlets, with total sales up 31.1 per cent and like for like sales rising 11 per cent.

Andy Harrison, Chief Executive of Whitbread, said, "Whitbread is an excellent business which is continuing to perform well. We have leading brands with real competitive advantage and substantial growth opportunities. The positive momentum in our business gives us confidence that, despite tougher comparatives and an uncertain outlook for consumer spending, the outturn for the full year will be in line with market expectations for strong profit growth."

Richard Hunter, Head of UK Equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, commented, "Despite the company warning at the half year stage in October that the second half would be more difficult, Whitbread has maintained its impressive growth.

"The flagship Premier Inn and Costa Coffee businesses in particular have continued their strong development, underlining their appeal in an increasingly cash constrained environment. The dynamic pricing model at Premier remains efficient, whilst the company's overall marketing push keeps its products front of mind. In the background, Whitbread's significant freehold asset base provides comfort, and the vague bid speculation surrounding the sector adds more froth to prospects. Even though further economic deterioration would have an impact, the shares have taken on something of a defensive appeal.

"In all, Whitbread continues to defy ever rising expectations and the share price has moved accordingly, adding 35% over the last year as compared to a 10% gain in the wider FTSE100 - and putting on 28% in the last six months alone. Given its current positioning, the general market view of the shares as a strong buy is unlikely to come under threat."

By 09:15 shares in Whitbread were down 2.74 per cent on the FTSE 100 to 1,741.00 pence per share.