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(Reuters) -French caterer Sodexo on Friday beat market estimates for first-quarter sales, as a return to the workplace and other venues helped its On-site business surpass pre-pandemic levels, while price hikes also helped.

Group sales came in at 6.33 billion euros ($6.65 billion) to top analysts’ consensus estimate of 6.17 billion euros, provided by the company, while its On-site business surpassed 2019 levels and grew 11.9% organically.

“On-Site Services continued to benefit from … a higher level of attendance, in all geographies, in the workplace, in stadiums, in convention centers and in Universities,” Chief Executive Sophie Bellon said, adding that price hikes also helped the division.

Caterers are trying to renegotiate tariffs and supplier agreements as the sector faces rising costs. Sodexo previously said it had passed much of the higher costs to clients, but has had difficulties with some, particularly in the public sector and schools.

Its Benefits & Rewards division, which delivers vouchers to businesses for employees, grew as much as 23.4% in the quarter.

Sodexo had said in November it would look to expand its vouchers business as companies seek more ways to retain staff in tight labour markets and greater flexibility as more employees work remotely.

The caterer on Friday confirmed its guidance for the year 2023.

($1 = 0.9515 euros)

(Reporting by Olivier Sorgho; Editing by Tom Hogue and Vinay Dwivedi)


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