New survey from CGA and Fourth reveals strong trading during outdoor-only service, but concerns about staff shortages
Four in five leaders in the managed restaurant, pub and bar sector feel optimistic about the next 12 months—the highest number for more than six years.
The latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA and Fourth shows 79% are optimistic about prospects for the eating and drinking out market in general. Confidence levels have not reached that level since February 2015, and have risen very sharply from the quarterly survey’s results in October (18%) and February (50%). Slightly more leaders (83%) say they feel optimistic about prospects for their own business over the next 12 months.
The dramatic upswing in confidence coincides with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and reopening of hospitality. The Business Confidence Survey indicates a solid start to trading since outside service was permitted from mid-April, with 58% of leaders rating their performance since then as ahead of their expectations, and just 8% below.
Despite the strong return only two in five (41%) businesses are now either trading at a profit or expect to do so by the end of June, the survey shows. However, it also highlights some big issues facing hospitality over the remainder of 2021, especially around staff recruitment and retention. Concerns over the Indian variant of COVID-19 and the risk of extended restrictions will also temper optimism in the weeks ahead.
Karl Chessell, CGA’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA, said: “After the immense challenges of 2020 and early 2021, it is very encouraging to see confidence levels riding so high across the managed sector. The figures are testament to the resilience of operators and the enduring appeal of restaurants, pubs and bars to consumers, and we can be optimistic that sales will follow confidence in bouncing back strongly this summer.”
He added: “There’s no escaping the fact that COVID-19 has taken a massive toll on hospitality, with thousands of businesses closing for good and many more still in a precarious position. The road to recovery could be long and uneven, and the sector is going to need sustained support on challenges like rent, rates and recruitment.”
Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth, said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see optimism levels increase amongst business leaders. This positivity is tempered somewhat by the challenging labour market, with many operators struggling to recruit in the current climate as the demand for workers accelerates with the easing of restrictions. As the industry slowly returns to full capacity, the recruitment challenge will be further exacerbated, so it’s never been more important for businesses to look at driving efficiencies and productivity in their management of labour.”