Business confidence remains ‘well below’ pre-Covid levels as soaring prices pile pressure on hospitality

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Business confidence remains ‘well below’ pre-Covid levels as soaring prices pile pressure on hospitality

Related tags business confidence Casual dining Cga Inflation Recruitment Restaurant

Hospitality’s post-Covid recovery continues to be threatened by rising prices in multiple key areas, leaders have warned in the latest Business Confidence Survey from CGA by NIQ and Fourth.

The exclusive quarterly poll shows half (50%) of senior-level operators are now very concerned about inflation in food and drink prices, with 33% concerned, 16% moderately concerned and just 1% unconcerned.

Inflation is particularly severe in key commodities for restaurants — especially dairy, meat and alcoholic drinks.

The CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index reveals price increases again in May to 21.6%. Around four in five leaders have seen increases in the price of eggs (85%) and chicken (80%), and nearly as many have experienced hikes in the cost of beer (79%) and red wine (74%).

The soaring costs are holding down hospitality leaders’ confidence.

While just over half (54%) of them now feel optimistic about prospects for their business over the next 12 months, this figure is well below pre-Covid levels.

More than a quarter (28%) of leaders say they currently have less than three months’ worth of cash reserves, and one in seven (14%) says their business is at risk of failure in the next 12 months.

“This data highlights the continuing challenges that operators are facing, with the rise of food and drink prices becoming particularly hard to swallow,” notes Sebastien Sepierre, managing director – EMEA, Fourth.

The research from CGA and Fourth shows that beyond food price inflation, spiralling costs are affecting many more areas.

Leaders have raised pay for both new and existing staff by an average of 11% in the last 12 months — ahead of the rate of inflation over that period. Rises have been driven by increases in the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage from April, which have concerned around two thirds (65%) of business leaders.

Rising labour costs are also being fuelled by widespread staff shortages. Across hospitality, 9% of roles are now vacant and open for application, and only half (49%) of leaders feel confident about recruitment over the next 12 months.

Elsewhere, four in five (79%) leaders are very concerned or concerned about energy prices and contracts, while well over half feel the same way about business rates (59%) and VAT (54%).

Businesses have been forced to pass on some price increases to consumers — putting guest spending at risk during the cost of living crisis.

Leaders told the Business Confidence Survey they have raised food menu prices by an average of 13% in the last 12 months.

“These figures are the clearest evidence yet of the impact of cost pressures on hospitality,” says Karl Chessell, CGA by NIQ’s director – hospitality operators and food, EMEA.

“This is a resilient and resourceful sector and businesses have steadily built back from the turmoil of Covid-19, but relentless inflation means many of them are now operating on extremely tight margins.

“Rising prices throughout the food and drink supply chain and enforced increases in pay levels have left few companies unscathed, and some are now very fragile.

“Hospitality’s long-term outlook remains good. Consumers are keen to eat and drink out when spending allows, and there are some signs that inflation may ease in the second half of 2023. However, in the meantime the sector needs targeted support on tax, energy, labour and other areas if it is to help power the UK’s much-needed economic recovery.”

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