Business leaders optimistic but major challenges remain

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Positive outlook: Business leaders are more optimistic about trading (Credit: Getty/ SolStock)
Positive outlook: Business leaders are more optimistic about trading (Credit: Getty/ SolStock)

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Seven in 10 (70%) pub, restaurant and bar leaders feel optimistic about their businesses’ prospects for the next 12 months, the third-quarter Business Confidence Survey from CGA and Fourth has revealed.

The confidence level represents a drop of 13 percentage points from the second-quarter survey, when optimism was inflated by the reopening of hospitality venues for the first time in 2021. According to the survey this is the second-highest figure since the May 2018. 

Nearly three in five (58%) leaders meanwhile feel optimistic about prospects for the general market over the next 12 months.

The survey revealed just over two thirds (69%) of businesses are currently trading at a profit while two in five (39%) leaders say they are performing ahead of expectations, compared to 23% trading below and 38% in line. 

Of those surveyed seven in 10 (70%) s have opened all the sites in their estate, and 92% have opened at least nine-tenths of their venues.

However, the Business Confidence Survey also highlighted concerns about hospitality’s outlook and the need for continued government support. 

More than four in five business leaders said they would like to see a VAT reduction extended beyond March 2022 (84%), business rates reform (81%) and business rates relief in 2022/23 (81%), and over two thirds (71%) support measures to address labour shortages in hospitality and the supply chain.

Confidence levels

“It’s encouraging to see such strong levels of confidence in hospitality leadership, especially given the turmoil of the last 18 months and the many cost and logistical pressures facing businesses at the moment,” said Karl Chessell, CGA’s director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA. 

“Many operators enter the autumn on the back of strong August sales, and momentum is building in consumer confidence and spending. But the damage Covid-19 has wreaked on the sector will be felt for years to come, and with debt repayments and tax rises ahead, profits are going to be needed for months to come if businesses’ finances are to be secured. Firms remain in need of support on their tax burdens, labour shortages and much more, but with the right backing hospitality is well placed to power the UK’s economy as it builds back from the pandemic.”

Technology impact

The latest survey also highlighted the integral role of technology in hospitality’s restart this year. Well over nine in 10 leaders said tech has been fundamental (44%) or helpful (50%) to their return, and nearly half (47%) have improved their view of it. New digital solutions are here to stay, leaders think, with two in three (65%) planning to use them more than they did before the pandemic, compared to just 1% who will use new tech less.

Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth, said: “The ongoing staffing and supply chain issues are continuing to heavily impact business performance and it remains unclear how long these challenges are going to ravage the sector. What is clear, however, is that the digital transformation journey is set to continue across the industry, helping businesses streamline, perform better and drive efficiencies.”  

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