Food & beverage consolidation continues as SSP strikes deal to acquire Airport Retail Enterprises

AUSTRALIA. In big breaking news, the country’s leading airport food & beverage operator Airport Retail Enterprises (ARE) announced today it has struck an agreement to sell 100% of its Australian business to international travel food services giant SSP Group.

ARE, founded in 1971 by entrepreneur Peter Butts with an inaugural operation at Perth Airport, operates a much-respected F&B portfolio in international and domestic terminals within six airports across Australia (see table below). It also has businesses in three UK airports but these are excluded from the deal and will continue to be led by the Butts family.

The Australian business has annualised sales in the region of A$200 million (US$130 million) from 62 outlets (see table below), principally bars, casual dining restaurants and cafés, across seven Australian airports: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra, Townsville and Mount Isa.

The news is the latest example of the continuing rapid consolidation in the airport F&B space. It is understood that ARE’s planned divestment had attracted intense interest among several major sector stakeholders.

The agreement builds on SSP’s long-established presence in Australia, where the company has operated since 2007. It now runs 40 units across seven airports and one train station. ARE’s portfolio is highly complementary to these existing operations, SSP said.

ARE has a diverse portfolio of local, national, international and chef-inspired brands, the majority of which are in-house brands. The acquisition of ARE will provide an opportunity to build a stronger operational platform and deliver synergies across the combined business, SSP observed.

ARE Founder & Chairman Peter Butts’ tremendous contribution to the Australian travel F&B sector was recognised in 2022 when he received the Career Achievement and Industry Contribution Award at the AAA (Australian Airports Association) Retail & Commercial Forum, a partnership between AAA, The Mercurius Group and The Moodie Davitt Report. Here he is seen receiving the accolade from National Chair of the Australian Airports Association Kym Meys.

As a result of the acquisition, SSP will gain entry into four new airports (Canberra, Gold Coast, Townsville and Mount Isa). Post completion, SSP will operate around 100 units across 11 of the largest 19 airports in Australia.

The acquisition of ARE is aligned to SSP’s strategy of accelerating growth in the Asia Pacific region. From 2023 to 2030, international passenger air traffic in Australia is expected to grow by an average of +10% per annum., with domestic passenger numbers expected to grow by an average of +3-4%, SSP said.

The transaction will see SSP add a number of high-quality assets and brands to its portfolio and will further rebalance the group’s weighting towards the high-growth Asia Pacific air channel, the company added.

ARE Founder and Chairman Peter Butts said: “Since 1971, Airport Retail Enterprises has been focused on creating exceptional dining experiences for our customers and, in doing so, has grown to become a leading operator of airport F&B outlets in Australia.

“This transaction is a major milestone for ARE and we are delighted to be joining the SSP Group, one of the leading F&B operators in travel locations globally.

“The acquisition will allow the combined business to offer an even wider range of high-quality F&B selections and maintain an unwavering commitment to excellence in the airport environment.”

Over the past 53 years Airport Retail Enterprises has flourished from a single terminal start-up to Australia’s biggest and most-respected airport food & beverage player. The UK business is excluded from the SSP deal. Click on table to expand.

Butts added, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our team members who have played such an integral role in shaping ARE into the business it is today. I’ve loved every minute of building and watching ARE grow, and I know this sale is the right decision for the future of ARE, and for myself and my family.

SSP Group CEO Patrick Coveney said: “We are very pleased to have signed an agreement to acquire a high-quality and highly complementary business in Australia.

“The acquisition will increase our portfolio of brands and concepts, give us entry into new prime air locations, enhance our position as a leading airport F&B operator in the country and create significant value for shareholders.

“The Asia Pacific region offers a significant opportunity to build returns and drive growth for the group. Our enlarged business in Australia will have the opportunity to become a regional centre of excellence. We look forward to welcoming circa 1,500 colleagues from the ARE business to our team.”

Flashback to 2011 when Martin Moodie interviewed Peter Butts as Airport Retail Enterprises celebrated turning 40. Click on the image to read and turn to page 36.

Publicly listed SSP operates a wide array of travel-related food & beverage outlets in 36 countries across the world. Its vision is to be the world’s best travel food &  beverage company, delivering long-term sustainable growth and returns.  ‍

Food & beverage sector consolidation is sure to be among the hot topics at the 2024 Australian Airports Association (AAA) Retail & Commercial Forum to be hosted by Melbourne Airport on 22-24 July. The event is a partnership between the AAA, The Mercurius Group and The Moodie Davitt Report.
The world’s only event dedicated solely to the airport food & beverage and hospitality sectors makes a welcome return to the US in June. Please contact The Moodie Davitt Report Head of Events Vincci Chung at for details.
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