The Eating Out-Look for March-April 2014 revealed that 86 per cent of restaurants and foodservice operators expect sales to increase over the next six months and a quarter expect a ‘large increase in trade’.
Restaurateurs were the most optimistic, with 34 per cent predicting large increases in food sales, but a quarter of hotels and 20 per cent of pubs and bars also expected a significant uplift.
With confidence on the up, fewer restaurants are planning cost cutting measures such as changing menus, withholding capital expenditure and renegotiating supply and maintenance contracts.
In a positive sign for hospitality workers, number of businesses planning to reduce staff hours has fallen to 38 per cent, down from 44 per cent in Spring 2013, and the number of business planning to reduce or freeze wages has fallen to 30 per cent from 41 per cent last year.
Businesses are also more likely to take on new staff, with a third of survey respondents (34 per cent) planning to increase staff numbers, up from just 21 per cent last year.
Businesses implementing cost-cutting practices
So where has this renewed confidence come from?
Horizons reported that two-thirds of the 300 operators surveyed reported a year-on-year increase in food sales, with 20 per cent reporting a ‘large increase’.
Over half of operators said they were serving more meals on the weekend and at lunchtime, with 47 per cent noting a particular increase in demand on Sundays.
They survey also revealed a ‘sharp decline’ in the number of consumers trading down to lower priced meals, with fewer consumers skipping starters and deserts.
As a result, the majority of operators said average spend was up, with ‘significantly’ more customers spending over £20 than 12 months ago.
Businesses reporting increase in food sales over past 12 months
Emma Read, Horizons’ director of marketing & business development, said: “These results support our previous research that shows consumers are beginning to increase their spending on eating out.
“Operators are much more optimistic about future food sales than they have been, and are now confident to scale back on the costcutting measures they implemented last year.
Consumers are still cost-conscious, and arelikely to remain so, but with average spend rising operators are feeling much more optimistic for the future.”