Sodexho UK is back in the black for the first time in three years despite falling school meals revenue.
In last week's pre-trading statement, the French-owned caterer said its 2006 turnover was up by 4.8% to €1.37b (£924m), thanks to large NHS, defence and prison sector contract wins.
Credit Suisse analyst Karl Green said that the figures marked "a distinct turnaround in Sodexho's UK fortunes", adding: "Its strategy of client retention is paying off and it will move into 2007 with a pretty strong tailwind."
Despite the overall growth, education revenue fell by 4.8% due to falling school meals uptake, prompting chief executive Michel Landel to deny that a pullout was planned.
"For us," he said, "education is a very important market and is still very attractive in the medium term."
Food service consultant Jonathan Knight was less convinced that the figures marked a new dawn. He said: "It's too early to tell what the underlying profitability is and whether the company has the right esprit de corps in place yet."
Landel said that group turnover in 2006 would be up by 9.4% to €12.79b (£8.62b), propelled by 9.5% growth in North America and a 23% rise in the rest of the world.