New contracts and operational improvements have driven a 32.6% increase in underlying operating profit at travel site operator SSP Group.

The global business, which operates UK travel sites for brands including Starbucks and Upper Crust, reported operating profit of £55.2m in the six months to 21 March on revenue up 11.9% at constant currency to £1,177.8m.

In the UK, the business reported a 1.2% increase in revenue to £369.5m, with growth in the air sector stronger than the rail sector, which SSP described as “remaining soft”. The business added, however, that it had been impacted by the closure of Monarch Airlines last year and reduced schedules from Ryanair.

Underlying operating profit for the UK rose 12.5% to £33.4m, with operating efficiency programmes and lower depreciation offsetting reduced like-for-like sales and inflation in food and labour costs.

The company announced it had recently secured a partnership agreement with London-based healthy food and juice chain Crussh to take the brand into rail and airport locations in the UK and Europe.

"SSP has delivered another strong performance in the first half of 2018,” said SSP Group CEO Kate Swann. “Operating profit was up 32.6%, driven by good like-for-like sales growth, significant new contract openings and further operational improvements.”

“Looking forward, the second half has started in line with our expectations and while a degree of uncertainty always exists around passenger numbers in the short term, we continue to be well placed to benefit from the structural growth opportunities in our markets and our programme of operational improvements.”