Confidence high amongst hospitality leaders despite ongoing cost and staffing challenges 

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Optimism among Britain’s hospitality leaders has risen for the third quarter in a row, the new Business Confidence Survey from CGA by NIQ and Fourth reveals.

The poll shows 62% of leaders currently feel optimistic about prospects for their business over the next 12 months — an increase of eight percentage points from the last survey in May. The proportion of leaders feeling confident about the hospitality market in general has climbed by five percentage points quarter-on-quarter, to 45%.

The figures are said to be a welcome vote of confidence in Britain’s hospitality sector and follow solid trading in 2023 despite pressure on consumers’ disposable income. More than four in five (84%) leaders say they operated at a profit in the second quarter of the year, and 37% did so at a higher margin than in the same period last year.

The survey also indicates a notable upswing in confidence among smaller businesses. Nearly two in five (38%) leaders of independent operators now feel optimistic about prospects for hospitality — sharply up by 15 percentage points from the last survey.

However, hospitality businesses continue to face severe challenges, including high inflation in key areas. All leaders say they are concerned to some extent about inflation in food and drink, and more than nine in 10 are concerned about energy prices and contracts (96%) and interest rates (91%).

These inflationary pressures are denting businesses’ profits, the survey shows. Two thirds (67%) of leaders say their year-on-year sales growth is less than or equal to their cost increases, while one in nine (11%) leaders say their business remains at risk of failing although this is three percentage points down from the last survey.

Businesses are also dogged by personnel issues, with 91% of leaders concerned about staff shortages and 92%by increases in National Living Wage levels. One in nine (11%) roles are currently vacant and open for applications—a quarter-on-quarter increase of two percentage points.

Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “Leaders’ optimism levels are impressively high at such a difficult time for UK businesses and consumers. It’s encouraging to see businesses of all sizes looking to the future with such confidence, and with strong underlying demand for pubs, bars and restaurants the outlook is good. However, ongoing high inflation and staffing issues mean trading conditions will remain challenging until at least the end of the year. There is no room for complacency, and operators will have to work very hard to mitigate costs and protect sales over the rest of 2023.”

Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth, said: “It’s fantastic to see business confidence return to the hospitality sector in recent months, especially in the face of continuing industry challenges. As these figures show, it’s clear that hospitality leaders remain cautious about key issues such as inflation and staff shortages, which can have a major impact on profitability. Technology plays a pivotal role in helping businesses reduce costs and drive efficiencies, and at Fourth we have seen confidence levels rise even further amongst customers who have invested in innovative solutions such as AI forecasting, which enable operators to effectively manage their spend across labour and supply.”

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