SSP Upper Crust

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Upper Crust and Millie’s operator SSP has reported a double-digit year-on-year hike in UK turnover in the past three months.

In a trading update for the three months from April to June, SSP said sales increased by 12% with like-for-like performance up 8%, which the company said was partly a result of less rail industrial action compared with last year.

The company, which operates food and beverage outlets in travel locations across the world, also said growth in UK turnover reflected an increase in air travel passenger numbers.

Gatwick Airport has been a focus for SSP, increasing its brands at the site from two in 2019 to six in 2023. In a tie-up with the Scottish brewer, it opened a BrewDog site at the airport last December, and in July 2023 opened the first airport restaurant with London-based brunch brand The Breakfast Club.

SSP has recently launched a new travel-focused foodservice and retail store concept called Café Local, specifically tailored for UK regional rail stations. It serves beverages and bakery items including sandwiches, paninis, toasties and cakes, as well as selling confectionery, cold drinks, alcohol and travel essentials.

In the update, SSP stated that it welcomed the “clarity of the findings” of a report into the UK railway station catering market that was published last month by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).

The report points out that SSP is the single largest player in the sector, with 20% to 30% of outlets in stations and 40% to 50% of passenger expenditure.

While the ORR decided not to refer the railway station catering market to the Competition and Markets Authority, it has made suggestions for increasing competition. These include a more flexible approach to leasing and an increase in competitive tendering.

SSP said it would “continue to work with the network operators in responding to its recommendations”.

This week’s trading update stated that SSP total group sales rose 16% on a constant currency basis, with like-for-like sales growth of 6%, net contract gains of 5% and a contribution from acquisitions of 5%.

For the nine-month period from 1 October 2023 to 30 June 2024, total group revenues increased by 18%, including like-for-like sales growth of 10%, net contract gains of 4% and 4% benefit from acquisitions. At actual exchange rates, total group revenues increased 15% year on year.