Upper Crust owner: ‘Demand for travel will return’

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Upper Crust owner SSP Group says it believes that “demand for travel will return”, despite the coronavirus pandemic dragging down sales.

It said weekly sales are now 76% below April to September levels last year.

SSP said about a third of its global outlets, mostly found at railway stations and airports, had reopened despite the pandemic.

The firm is currently consulting on cutting 5,000 jobs in the UK where, pre-Covid, it has 580 sites.

That is more than half the number of people it employs in the UK at its busiest time of the year.

In total, SSP has 2,800 outlets in more than 30 countries around the world, and employs 39,000 staff.

It said it had reopened units “swiftly” in response to improving demand.

SSP also said its sales over the April-September period have recovered from a fall of 95% at the start of the lockdown to the 76% currently being made.

It also gave guidance that revenues are down about £1.3 billion, and operating losses will be between £180-250m.

‘Gradual return’

The group, which also owns the Caffè Ritazza chain and deli operator Camden Food Co, and operates in 35 countries around the world, said that 1,100 of its outlets were now open.

Its chief executive Simon Smith said: “We have seen some improvement in passenger demand since the start of the crisis and we have reopened units swiftly and profitably in response to this, with over one third of our units now trading.

“Our model is flexible and we will continue to align unit openings with demand, meeting the needs of our customers whilst managing operating costs and cash flow tightly.

“In the medium-term we expect to see the gradual return of passenger travel to more normalised levels,” he said.

The update was greeted favourably by investors who sent SSP’s share price more than 10% higher to 199.45p.

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