LONDON-Pizza Hut is planning to open over 100 new restaurants by this time next year. The restaurant chain, 50% owned by Whitbread, plans to open 13 restaurants next months and will have opened 50 by the end of this year, with a further 75 to follow in 2002.

Whitbread, once one of the country’s biggest brewers, has switched into the restaurant and leisure business, had been widely tipped to sell Pizza Hut in order to fund an expansion of its David Lloyd Leisure fitness centres. The company refused to comment on its plans although it is now planning to develop the business with an aggressive expansion programme.

Pizza Hut has also broken in to the franchise market which it has started in its take-away outlets. Of the 50 units to be opened this year, 20 will be franchised with a further tranche in 2002. The company estimates that the UK market can accommodate 500 of its home delivery units and the same number of eat-in restaurants. Outside the UK Pizza Hut has traditionally grown through franchise.

One retail analyst said that it was far more likely that Whitbread would consider selling the chain on ‘once it had been nicely fattened up.’

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