POLL: Have your say on the sector

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Cup half full or empty: How do you feel about the future? (credit: Getty/ SolStock)
Cup half full or empty: How do you feel about the future? (credit: Getty/ SolStock)

Related tags Finance

Business leaders are torn on how they feel about trade, with some struggling but others feeling confident for the future.

According to the latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA by NIQ and Fourth, optimism among leaders​ of Britain’s top hospitality groups has risen since the start of 2023.

The quarterly poll showed more than half (54%) of leaders felt optimistic​ about business prospects over the next 12 months – a hike of 7% from the January survey, and more than double the number (22%) who felt pessimistic.

What’s more, the survey revealed the proportion of leaders feeling confident​ about the eating and drinking out market in general has risen even more sharply quarter-on-quarter to 40%.

Energy costs, inflation​ and staffing shortages are battering the sector. But in its latest trading update, Urban Pubs & Bars was confident it could ride out the storm.

Survey

Do you feel confident about the future of your business?

  • Yes

    25%
  • No

    75%

In the 52 weeks to 1 May 2022, the company generated an operating profit of £4.12m from sales of £32.6m, in what directors described as a “transformational” period for the group.

However, other operators said they felt beaten down after heavy knocks in trade. For instance, the operator of the Pig & Whistle, Beverley, East Yorkshire, was left “broken”​ after rail strikes and the cost-of-living crisis triggered the worst trading week in seven years.

Difficult weekend

Head chef James Allock took to Twitter to call last Saturday (3 June) the “worst Saturday ever”, and stated, “dining out is dying”. The East Yorkshire-based bistro and tapas bar has 18 advanced bookings for the coming weeks, versus a normal rate of 54 to 78.

“It’s ultimately down to [the fact that] most guests have got less money in their pockets after their bills,” Allcock told The Morning Advertiser.​​ “It seems like even the ones that do are a bit more careful with it.”

The chef, who has previously cooked at Burnt Truffle and the Pipe and Glass, added: “Hospitality venues can deal with a loss in trade, they can deal with drops in business, but what they can’t deal with is increased costs, drops in business and the increase in fixed bills such as gas and electric.”

He wasn't the only operator to struggle. Owner of Arch 13 Bar, Birmingham, expressed her deflation on Twitter after the worst Saturday bookings she'd ever seen.

The Euston Tap, central London, broadcasted their empty venue online, a stark contrast to the "full buzzing house" the pub generally became on match days.

Fighting hospitality's corner

BrewDog chief executive James Brown​ said the Government should install a hospitality representative to give the sector a “fair crack of the whip”.

Brown said​ pubs were struggling to get energy deals or had been forced to pay in advance are things other industries just didn’t have to contend with.

He continued: “Having someone in Government, based on the size of this industry, could quickly troubleshoot that kind of stuff and I think the crazy thing is energy companies want a solution to it as well. Nobody likes things that are difficult, and it doesn’t help either side of the business.”

Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ director of hospitality operators and food EMEA, added: “All our research shows consumers remain eager to eat and drink out when they can, and business leaders are rightly confident​ about the long-term outlook for hospitality.

“Nevertheless, the relentless rise in bills for businesses and consumers alike leaves many firms and jobs extremely vulnerable.​ Until inflation finally eases conditions will remain very difficult, and hospitality deserves targeted government support to mitigate costs.”

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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