Upper Crust owner SSP Group raises earnings expectations amid travel recovery

Upper Crust and Millie’s Cookies owner SSP Group has said the recovery of business and commuter travel and a surge in summer holiday-goers has boosted its revenues.

The company, which operates food and beverage outlets in travel spots around the world, said that it expects revenues over the three months to September 30 to be 91% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Sales will be around £2.17 billion and pre-tax earnings will be in the region of £140 million for the full year, slightly ahead of its previous expectations and driven up by a stronger fourth quarter.

Numbers of travellers have largely recovered after transport networks were deserted during the height of the Covid pandemic, followed by a work-from-home boom that saw a decline in daily commuters.

A slow return to office working and disruption to rail networks caused by industrial strike action has also impacted the travel sector.

SSP said sales activity in the UK, where it makes about a quarter of its total revenues, strengthened despite the challenges.

But passenger numbers remain very low in China and Hong Kong which has seen ongoing national lockdowns enforced since the pandemic first struck.

The company, which has around 23,000 staff globally, noted worsening economic conditions but said it is “confident” that its flexible business model will allow it to offset cost inflation and manage supply chain and labour volatility.

Patrick Coveney, the chief executive of SSP Group who joined in March from convenience food producer Greencore, said: “Passenger numbers are rebounding across the global travel sector and – thanks to the commitment and hard work of our colleagues and support from our clients and brand partners – our trading has now recovered to near 2019 levels.

“As we look forward in this challenging macroeconomic environment, we remain confident in the ongoing resilience of the group’s business model and continue to see significant potential for both near and long-term growth.”

The FTSE 250-listed company saw its shares rise by more than 3% on Tuesday after raising its earnings expectations.