Upper Crust owner SSP returns to profit as travel sector recovers

Upper Crust owner SSP has swung back into profit after it hailed a recovery in travellers driven by a busy summer holiday season.

The company, which runs food outlets at transport sites such as airports and railway stations, posted an operating profit of £91.5 million for the year to September 30, compared with a £309.2 million loss a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the firm saw revenues jump by 162% to £2.18 billion over the year, aided by a particularly strong second half, following the easing of pandemic restrictions.

SSP said the new financial year has started strongly and it is targeting sales of up to £3 billion for the 2023 financial year.

It said strong momentum in passenger numbers from this summer has continued over the autumn to keep recent sales ahead of pre-pandemic levels.

The group hailed a particularly strong performance in North America, where it has benefited from the sharp recovery in domestic air travel and new business.

However, UK trade has seen a much slower recovery, with sales over the past eight weeks at only 84% of pre-pandemic levels amid slower demand at rail sites during continued industrial action by railway workers.

SSP said it will pump around £250 million into capital expenditure next year as it seeks to accelerate new openings globally.

SSP Group chief executive Patrick Coveney said: “This has been a year of strong recovery for SSP, with momentum building strongly through the second half and into our new financial year.

“Group revenues are now tracking at 104% of 2019 levels, and, as revenues have recovered, we have delivered good profits and robust cash flows.

“The quality of our people, the resilience of our business model, the support of our client, brand and supply partners, and the structural growth in travel demand mean that, despite the current macroeconomic uncertainty, we remain confident in the future growth and returns prospects for SSP.”