Costa Coffee, the Whitbread-owned chain, has seen like-for-like sales leap by 6%, driven by an increase in transactions.

The coffee giant was praised for its “outstanding” performance for this financial year to 26 February 2015, as underlying profit for the brand increased by 20.7% to £132.5m.

The results comes hand-in-hand with the announcement that Whitbread chief executive Andy Harrison will take retirement from the company at the end of this financial year in February 2016. He will become chairman at home furnishing retailer Dunelm.

There have been suggestions that Whitbread would sell the Costa chain. However, Harrison said that Whitbread would continue to invest capital in brands, including £25.9m in Costa, and denied this speculation on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4. 

The company has pinned the like-for-like sales increase on its product innovation and improvements on its food offering, namely its sweet breakfast range.

The company said: “We have an ambition to double the business by 2020, as we continue to expand into new growth channels in the UK, as well as focus on our international expansion. Our wholesale business also continues to make good progress.”

This financial year the coffee firm opened a net 176 stores, taking the total to 1,931 in the UK.

Costa also set some ‘encouraging’ milestone targets, after it already reached its 2016 goal of £1.4bn in system sales a year early. It now hopes these sales will hit £2.5bn by 2020.

According to a coffee shop brand preference survey conducted by YouGov, Costa ranks number one.