Caffè Ritazza owner eyes empty Tube ticket offices

 

The company behind coffee shops, food stores and restaurants at airports and train stations is hoping to cash in on Transport for London’s plans to install retailers in soon- to-be empty ticket offices at Underground stations.

Kate Swann, the chief executive of SSP, said that the company which owns the Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza brands has been involved in discussions with Tube bosses, who want to raise £3bn and have already announced several high-profile deals with major supermarkets and delivery firms.

Asked about wanting to be in Tube stations, she said: “We are in constant discussions with all our key clients, including Transport for London. We already have good relationships in that area because we’re in train stations across the country.”

Her comments come as the company revealed that underlying pre-tax profits jumped 12.6 per cent to £54m for the six months to end of March. SSP’s sales were up 4.6 per cent at £866m.

Sales in the US were particularly strong following new openings in New York’s JFK airport, alongside Phoenix and San Diego.

Ms Swann, the former boss of WH Smith, said the potential in the US is significant – sales in North America were up 25 per cent – because airports have been slow to offer a wider choice of food and drinks stores.

She said: “Most of the airport owners there are government, whereas in the rest of the world they are more commercial landlords, which makes things a bit slower. It’s democratic and everyone is asked their opinions.”

Airport and train station operators are also becoming more discerning with the kind of restaurants and cafes SSP installs, with bosses wanting a more-targeted approach.

Ms Swann said: “Our clients want us to replicate what’s important to the local area. In Newcastle airport, for example, we’re just opened a new bar called the Newcastle Beer House.”

Elsewhere, the Dani Garcia Deli Bar at Malaga airport sells locally sourced food while the Grain Loft at Manchester airport promotes regional ales.

Sales across the rest of the world were up 9 per cent, but these were dragged down by unrest in Egypt and Thailand, while SSP’s lack of business in South America means that it will not benefit directly from the World Cup in Brazil.

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