Sodexho has returned to positive growth in the UK and Ireland for the first time in three years.
In a pre-trading statement today, the contract caterer said turnover in 2006 was up 4.8% to €1.37b (£924m) - thanks to large contract wins in the NHS, defence and prison sectors.
Its healthcare division saw a 17.8% jump in revenue, while a more modest increase of 3.9% was registered in the business and industry market.
Credit Suisse analyst Karl Green said the figures marked a "distinct turnaround" in Sodexho's fortunes in the UK.
He said: "Its strategy of client retention is paying off and it will move into 2007 with a pretty strong tailwind."
Chief executive Michel Landel emphasised the group's policy of selectivity in the education arena but denied Sodexho was planning a pullout.
"No, we won't exit the market at all. For us education is a very important market and is still very attractive in the medium term," he said.
Landel said group turnover in 2006 would be up by 9.4% to â¬12.79b (£8.62b), propelled by 9.5% growth in North America and a 23% rise in the rest of the world.
By Tom Bill