The Business Confidence Survey from CGA and Fourth found under a third (30%) of industry bosses are currently optimistic about prospects for the general market – down by nine percentage points on the previous survey three months ago.
The figure is the lowest since November 2017 and the joint lowest since the EU referendum in June 2016.
Just over half (58%) of business leaders said they were optimistic about their company’s prospects in the next 12 months – down seven percentage points from the last poll to the lowest point since late 2017.
The survey highlighted Brexit as the main source of pessimism and revealed leaders were concerned about the long-term and immediate impact of leaving the EU.
Although 44% said uncertainty around Brexit was their leading concern, 52% also cited the potential consequences of departure as their biggest worry.
Some three quarters (74%) were worried about increased food costs after Brexit and 72% were concerned about labour costs as well as a fall in consumer confidence (67%).
CGA group chief executive Phil Tate said: “This is a sober message to the Government from the country’s pub, bar and restaurant operators.
“It is clear the long-term consequences of Brexit are front of mind in the industry at the moment and leaders don’t regard this as simply a short-term problem.”
Tate added: “There is an urgent need for clarity around Brexit’s impact in areas like imports and the labour market and this sector deserves support that reflects its enormous contribution to the UK’s economy.”
Fourth CEO Ben Hood hailed the industry as being known for its positivity, energy and can-do-will-do culture.
He added: “Brexit and the prevailing uncertainty is clearly, and understandably, weighing on the sector. Against the spectre of a no-deal exit, hospitality operators desperately need certainty over the future shape of supply, trading and immigration arrangements with the EU.
“With consumer confidence starting to tick down as well, these findings should sound the alarm in Westminster that Britain’s resilient, dynamic and world-class hospitality sectors needs Government to deliver clarity and a workable departure that protects our best interests.”