Whitbread taps Domino's Pizza exec to replace Alison Brittain

Whitbread CEO Alison Brittain is stepping down from the role and retiring from full-time executive life. She is being replaced by Dominic Paul, who most recently served as CEO of Domino's Pizza Group. The name should sound familiar since Paul served as managing director of Costa Coffee, a former Whitbread unit prior to its sale to Coca-Cola.

Whitbread owns the Premier Inn brand, which boasts more than 820 hotels, mostly in the UK. 

The switch in leadership will happen at the end of Whitbread’s 2023 financial year with Paul officially joining in January.

Brittain was a speaker at the International Hospitaity Investment Forum in 2020. At the time she noted that Premier Inn's best growth opportunity was in the German market. "The German hotel market is 35 percent larger than our home market in the UK," she said. "It is similar to the UK 10 years ago in that it is experiencing a structural shift from independent to branded hotels. The branded budget hotel sector is the fastest beneficiary of this shift, but still only represents a small market share. We are on our way to creating a business of scale in this attractive market, with nearly 50 hotels with over 8,000 rooms in 15 cities already secured. 2020 will be a transformational year as we will open over 20 hotels in Germany, establishing our brand in a number of key cities."

Paul has a background in the travel and leisure industry having worked at the cruise line Royal Caribbean and at EasyJet, British Midland and British Airways. 

"Dominic is the an obvious choice as he is a veteran in this industry," Richard Clarke, an analyst at Bernstein, told Reuters.


Whenever there’s a change at the top, there arises gossip of change in approach. Whitbread, famously, is one of the few big hotel companies that has kept hold of its properties with the likes of Marriott and Wyndham all favouring an asset-light approach.

"What is interesting is that Dominic come from Domino's, which operates as a franchise model, and we know Whitbread has not been successful as a franchisee except in the Middle East," Clarke also said.

Could a new CEO change things? It seems unlikely. A couple of years ago Whitbread reportedly came under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management over its property ownership. Whitbread did sell off the coffee business but kept hold of its hotels. Elliott later trimmed its stake.

What They Said

Alison Brittain, CEO, said: "It has been an enormous privilege to lead Whitbread during a period of significant expansion for our well-loved brands, in both the UK and in Germany. The business has recovered from the pandemic well ahead of expectations and is continuing to trade strongly and gain market share. We are well positioned for continued outperformance and future growth, and we have a clear strategy and a strong management team to deliver it.

“For the last seven years I have been consistently impressed and humbled by the hard work and commitment of our very talented teams and their passion for providing brilliant experiences for our guests every day and I'm immensely grateful to them for everything that they do. I will continue to be fully committed to the business over the next few months until it's time to hand over the baton and I wish Dominic and the whole Whitbread team every success for the future."

Dominic Paul said: "I am delighted to have been selected to return and lead Whitbread, a business with a fantastic heritage and an exciting future both in the UK and internationally. Whitbread has a well-founded strategy, a very strong customer proposition, and significant opportunities for future growth. I am looking forward to working with Adam and the whole Whitbread team to deliver for our customers, teams, and shareholders."