The owner of the Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza snack chains said today that its sales had finally started to recover from coronavirus lockdowns and forecast a smaller than feared cash burn for the second half of its financial year. 

Shares in SSP, whose chains sell food and drinks in airports and train stations in 36 countries, jumped 11%. 

The company, which made about 37% of its 2019 revenues in continental Europe and around 30% in the UK and Ireland, said it still expected revenues to plunge 86%, or by £1.3 billion in the six months to September 30. 

However, it added operating losses for the period would be in the middle of a £180-250m range forecast in July and cut its prediction for cash burn to £250-270m from an earlier £340-440m. 

"We have seen some improvement in passenger demand since the start of the crisis, with over one-third of our units now trading," chief executive Simon Smith said. 

SSP, which said in July it might cut up to 5,000 jobs in Britain to reduce costs, did not give any update on the layoffs. 

It has been cutting investment to a minimum and stopping shareholder payouts to conserve cash. 

Travel and leisure businesses have been among the worst hit by the pandemic as people cancelled business trips and holidays.

The UK sector is bracing for a further hit after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people yesterday to work from home where possible and ordered restaurants and bars to close early to try to contain a surge in Covid-19 infections. 

SSP said weekly sales had improved compared with the third quarter and were about 76% below last year following a stronger recovery in Continental Europe, although Britain, North America and the rest of the world remained weak.