SSP Upper Crust

Source: SSP Group

Travel food and drink operator SSP Group said it was ‘recovering strongly’, with half-year revenue of £803m representing a rise of 213% on the 2021 figure.

With underlying EBITDA of £14.7m for the six-month period ended 31 March 2022 compared with a EBITDA loss of £110m for the previous year – along with an operating profit of £26m against 2021’s loss of £220m – the group said actions taken during the pandemic to protect the business now leave it ‘well positioned to capitalise on the many opportunities ahead’.

Despite the upturn in sales, however, the group – which owns travel-hub brands including Upper Crust and Ritazza – is still operating with revenues at just 64% of 2019 levels. The latest six-month figures also show a pre-tax loss of £2.3m, albeit a vast improvement of the previous year’s pre-tax loss of £300m.

SSP said it was encouraged by a ‘continued improvement’ in trading performance in recent months – largely driven by an upturn in leisure travel, with business-related travel recovering at a slower rate. The group’s current expectation is for sales in the second half of the year to be around 80% to 85% of pre-Covid levels and for full-year sales to be in the region of £2bn to £2.1bn.

Patrick Coveney, CEO of SSP Group, welcomed signs of recovery from a “hugely challenging” period. “We have seen a significant rebound in trade since the impact of Omicron, with revenues currently running at over 80% of pre Covid-19 levels and with a similar proportion of our sites now open,” he said.

The former Greencore chief executive, who joined SSP at the end of March, also expressed his belief that he had “joined a fantastic organisation that has done all of the right things during Covid-19 to protect the business”.

“We anticipate a full recovery in leisure travel, which drives the majority of our business, and are confident that we are well positioned for the months and years ahead,” Coveney added.