SSP, the travel location food and drink brand operator, has reported a like-for-like (LFL) sales increase of 3.7% for the year ended 30 September 2015.

The group, which operates internationally for brands including Upper Crust and Starbucks, also reported an underlying operating profit increase of 17.6% from £88.5m to £97.4m.

Profit growth was driven by a rise in air passenger travel, a strong increase in revenue and progress with a wide-ranging programme to optimise gross margins and operating efficiency.

The LFL sales increase was particularly strong in Q4, at 5.2% compared to around 3% for the rest of the year, which the group attributed to an increase in air passenger numbers in the UK and Continental Europe over the summer.

UK region

In the UK region, the LFL sales increase matched the overall figure of 3.7% despite a net loss of contracts of 2.3%, which SSP blamed mostly on the loss of a rail on-board catering contract in 2014 and the closure of outlets at major London stations undergoing redevelopment. The effects were partially mitigated by some important new openings, including at Stansted Airport.

Kate Swann, chief executive at SSP Group, said: “SSP has delivered strong results in 2015, with operating profit up over 17% and good like-for-like sales growth across all regions. We continue to focus on delivering our strategic objectives, driving sales growth in our existing portfolio and winning new contracts, which are extending our international operations, whilst remaining committed to operating an efficient business.

“The new financial year has started in line with our expectations and whilst 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.”

Over the year, SSP won a number of important international contracts, including at Shenyang, Tampa, Montreal and Luxembourg airports, and the group said it expected these sites to open over the next two to three years.