RESEARCH | Staff Reporter, UK

Pubs and bars “more upbeat” as restaurant confidence falters: study

A new survey from CGA and Fourth shows “patchy optimism” amid major challenges.

Confidence levels among the leaders of Britain’s pub, bar and restaurant groups remain broadly flat amid ongoing political uncertainty and continuing business challenges, the latest CGA Fourth Business Confidence Survey revealed.

The new poll of around 140 senior industry executives explained that optimism in their own business’ prospects continues to be higher than faith in the market as a whole. However, it also revealed that drink-led operators were notably more upbeat about the future.

The research, conducted in partnership with Fourth, found that a minority (41%) of bosses were “fairly or very optimistic” about prospects for the eating and drinking out market over the next 12 months—slightly up from 39% in February, but down six percentage points from a year ago.

Leaders’ were more upbeat about their own businesses, with 65% fairly or very optimistic about the next 12 months—though the figure was down both quarter-on-quarter (from 68%) and year-on-year (from 75%).

Movements in the two measures showed that the gap between confidence levels in their own businesses and in the market had narrowed slightly over the last quarter.

The latest survey highlighted concerns about the frequency of consumers’ visits to pubs, bars and restaurants over the rest of the year. Nearly half (45%) of leaders think consumers will eat and drink out less often in the next six months than they do now, with far fewer (9%) predicting they will do so more often.

Stark contrast in optimism levels
The poll also revealed a stark contrast in optimism levels between drink-led and food-led businesses. Three in five (61%) leaders of drink-led businesses say they feel optimistic about the market as a whole over the next 12 months—nearly twice the proportion of leaders of food-led businesses (33%).

Fragile market confidence, the firms explain, reflects the many pressures facing the hospitality sector, including rising labour, property and food costs, intense competition and uncertainty over Brexit.

“The patchy optimism among food-led business leaders confirms that 2019 has been a rough ride, with casual dining operators buffeted by ferocious headwinds and several high profile brands struggling. But leaders of drink-led businesses clearly feel they have much more to look forward to—a sign that after many years of pub closures and restaurant expansion, the tables have turned,” CGA group chief executive Phil Tate said.

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