SSP: Upper Crust owner’s UK recovery hampered by rail strikes as commuters stop buying baguettes
Upper Crust owner SSP has seen the recovery in its UK arm hampered by repeated waves of strike action across railway networks.
The company, which runs food outlets at transport sites such as airports and railway stations, revealed the performance of its UK and Ireland business lagged behind other regions globally due to train strike woes in December and January.
SSP said that across the group, revenues jumped by 103 per cent to £871 million in the four months to January 31 versus pre-Covid levels in 2019 thanks to a bounce back in travel demand and workers returning to offices.
But in the UK and Ireland, growth was far more muted, at 83 per cent, with revenues standing at £215 million.
Rail networks were brought to a standstill by strike action in the days leading up to Christmas and again in January, with further disruption earlier this month.
SSP said: “In the UK, the overall sales performance reflected both the seasonally higher weighting of rail within the business and the impact of an increased frequency of industrial action across the rail network during December and January.
“However, the UK air business maintained its strong momentum.”
The group said that its rebound elsewhere worldwide has kept the group on course.
“Despite the impact of industrial action in the UK rail network, strong trading across our other regions means our performance remains on track,” said SSP.
It is maintaining guidance for annual revenues of around £2.9 billion to £3 billion and underlying earnings of about £250 million to £280 million, boosted by the opening of new sites.
It saw revenues in North America rise 125 per cent versus 2019 and leap up by 108 per cent in Continental Europe and 101 per cent in the rest of the world.
Total group revenues soared 167 per cent on a year-on-year basis, but figures from a year earlier were held back as travel remained impacted by pandemic restrictions.
SSP said: “The encouraging revenue performance has been driven by a further recovery in passenger numbers, led by strong leisure travel demand over the extended holiday season.
“This momentum continued through the autumn and into the winter, demonstrating a resilience to the broader pressures on consumer spending.
“Business and commuter travel also continued to recover, albeit at a slower pace.”
Press Association – Holly Williams