Up­per Crust owner pick­ing up crumbs as 700 sites re­main closed

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Han­nah Ut­t­ley

UP­PER Crust owner SSP said it will take a £1.3bn sales hit in the sec­ond half of the year as the pan­demic con­tin­ues to cause a slump in over­seas trav­ellers and of­fice com­muters.

The firm, which op­er­ates cafes and restau­rants at travel hubs around the world, said sales for the six months to Sept 30 are ex­pected to be down by around 86pc com­pared with a year ear­lier.

De­spite the sig­nif­i­cant sales drop, SSP said re­duc­tions in rental and labour costs meant that its earn­ings fore­cast re­mained broadly in line with that set out in June. SSP said it ex­pects to re­port an op­er­at­ing loss of be­tween £180m and £250m in the sec­ond half.

SSP re­vealed it was cut­ting up to 5,000 jobs in July as it rushed to shore up cash in the face of plung­ing pas­sen­ger num­bers at rail­way sta­tions and air­ports. Be­fore the pan­demic hit, the com­pany em­ployed about 40,000 staff world­wide with around 9,000 in the UK.

The lat­est gov­ern­ment ad­vice for peo­ple to work from home if they can is likely to deal a fur­ther blow to SSP, just as work­ers were be­gin­ning to re­turn to of­fices. SSP said it has re­opened a third

‘Covid-19 con­tin­ues to have an un­prece­dented im­pact on the travel in­dus­try and on SSP’s busi­nesses’

of its 1,100 out­lets since the out­break first hit, an im­prove­ment on its fore­casts in July when it an­tic­i­pated that just a fifth of its sites would be open by the au­tumn. Sales have also seen a slight im­prove­ment over re­cent months, driven by in­creased de­mand at its rail busi­ness in con­ti­nen­tal Europe, where sales are around 66pc lower. Sales have re­mained be­tween 80pc to 85pc lower in the UK, North Amer­ica and the rest of the world, SSP said.

Si­mon Smith, chief ex­ec­u­tive, said: “Covid-19 con­tin­ues to have an un­prece­dented im­pact on the travel in­dus­try and on SSP’s busi­nesses. It is with re­gret that the pro­longed na­ture of this cri­sis has re­sulted in us hav­ing to re­struc­ture and make con­sid­er­able job losses in or­der to pro­tect the busi­ness. These are al­ways ex­tremely dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions, and we are sup­port­ing our col­leagues through­out this process.

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

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