Alison Brittain, boss of the Costa and Premier Inn owner, is named business woman of 2017.
"I have a huge passion for people and a huge passion for... customer-orientated businesses," said Ms Brittain.
"I have a lot of energy, and I love complex problems... and I'm hugely curious about things in the world."
Ms Brittain joined Barclays Bank as a graduate trainee and later became head of retail banking at Lloyds Banking Group.
She was appointed chief executive of Whitbread, which says it is the UK's largest hospitality company, in January 2016.
1984 Debbie Moore, founder of Pineapple Dance Studios
1985 Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
1991 Prue Leith, manager of the Prudence Leith catering group, and new Great British Bake Off judge
1998 Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson
2008 Carolyn McCall, then chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, now boss of EasyJet
2012 Anya Hindmarch, fashion designer
2013 Zaha Hadid, architect
The Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award was created in 1972 as a tribute to Madame Clicquot, who in the early 19th Century developed modern champagne-making techniques and established the Veuve Clicquot brand.
The champagne house describes her as having been "proud, stubborn and strong-willed".
As this year's winner, Ms Brittain will visit Veuve Clicquot in France, where she will have a vine named after her.
Veuve Clicquot also gave its first social purpose award to Jude Kelly, the artistic director of London's Southbank Centre.
Ms Kelly founded the Women of the World festival and developed the cultural strategy for London's Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.
Alice Bentinck, the founder of Entrepreneur First, a investment programme for start-ups, received the Veuve Clicquot New Generation Award.
Ms Bentinck has supported graduates and set up a not-for-profit computer coding course for young women.