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Upper Crust owner SSP confident despite ongoing strike woes

Upper Crust owner SSP has seen UK sales bounce back thanks to buoyant air travel and commuters continuing to return to offices, but warned of ongoing disruption from train strikes (James Manning/PA)
Upper Crust owner SSP has seen UK sales bounce back thanks to buoyant air travel and commuters continuing to return to offices, but warned of ongoing disruption from train strikes (James Manning/PA)

Upper Crust owner SSP has seen UK sales surge thanks to buoyant air travel and commuters continuing to return to offices, but warned of ongoing disruption from train strikes.

The firm, which runs food outlets at transport sites including airports and railway stations, posted a 17.1% jump in like-for-like sales across its UK and Ireland outlets in the final three months of last year.

It said there was less of a hit from industrial action compared with a year earlier, when train strikes caused havoc in the run-up to Christmas in 2022.

But the group said it expects to see an impact from strike action continue throughout the first three months of 2024 across the UK as well as in Continental Europe.

It comes as train services were crippled across many UK routes on Tuesday due to a walkout by drivers.

Services across southern England were cancelled or reduced as members of the Aslef union staged another strike in their long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

SSP’s trading update showed overall group like-for-like sales rose 14.3% at constant exchange rates in the quarter to December 31.

It said the UK first-quarter sales rise reflected “good passenger numbers in the air sector and further improvement in rail passenger volumes as commuters continued to return to working in offices”.

SSP put faith in its goals to grow full-year group comparable sales by between 6% and 10% as it cheered strong global demand for travel and solid trading since the year-end “notwithstanding the impact from industrial action”.

It also said it remains on track for underlying earnings of between £210 million and £235 million.

SSP said: “While we face into macroeconomic and political uncertainty, we believe that demand for travel will remain resilient and the industry is well set for both short-term and long-term structural growth.

“The new financial year has started well, with revenue momentum being maintained and inflationary pressures on operating costs being mitigated through our ongoing productivity and pricing initiatives.”

Shares in the firm lifted 3% on Tuesday morning.