Bob Ivell, chairman of Mitchells & Butlers, said: “In all my time, I’ve never seen the kind of headwinds that are currently being thrown at us as an industry. We’ll have to work hard just to stand still. We’ve got some difficult time ahead of us, whether we like it or not.”
Earlier in the day, Graeme Loudon, commercial strategy director at CGA, told the audience that while the industry had seen a sale uplift of more than 4%, like-for-like figures showed that to be at 0.6%.
“Things are relatively flat - that growth is being driven by new sites opening, not increased customer frequency, and growth from new sites is an unsustainable strategy,” he added.
Confidence amongst business leaders was lower as well, with 79% predicting increased business failures in 2017.
He said food prices were also on the rise for a range of reasons, with overall increases of around 3.7%, while for some products, such as fish, prices have gone up by 8%.
In the face of increased costs, with 73% of business leaders saying they would be passing costs onto customers, he said that offering great experiences would be a key feature in the battle for retaining those customers.