His comments came during a visit to Estonia this week where he added that Britons were unwilling to fill skills shortages in foodservice jobs.
"In the hospitality sector, hotels and restaurants, in the social care sector, working in agriculture, it will take time - it will be years and years before we get British citizens to do those jobs,” said Davis.
"Don't expect just because we're changing who makes the decision on the policy, the door will suddenly shut: it won’t."
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) estimates that 700,000 EU citizens currently work in the UK hospitality industry.
Restaurants, hotels and pubs have been left fearful of the consequences of the Brexit vote after Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill claimed in January that companies could be hit with a £1000 levy for employing EU staff.
Though Downing Street was quick to refute the idea and has since stated its aim is to ‘secure the status of EU citizens living in the UK as early as possible', many businesses remain unclear about the future of their European workers.
'Determined' to find more UK staff
In a letter to Davis the BHA said it was ‘reassured’ by his comments and hoped to organise a meeting to hammer out a new ‘evidence-based’ immigration policy.
But it also acknowledged that restaurants, hotels and pubs needed to be less reliant on EU workers to survive.
“We are determined to rely less on EU service workers over the coming years but it will take time, as Mr Davis has recognised,” says BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim.
“This is why we have already urged the government to consider a phased approach. We at the BHA will be focusing our efforts on promoting hospitality as a rewarding and exciting career to UK workers."
The UK government is aiming to trigger Article 50, which will begin the two-year negotiating period for leaving the EU, by the end of March. If successful the UK could leave the bloc by 2019.