Managers in the hospitality industry are leaning towards remaining in the EU for business reasons, but the sector appears deeply divided.
A member survey by the Institute of Hospitality found roughly half will vote to stay in the EU. While remain voters (52.4%) outweigh the exit camp (36.3%), those yet to make up their mind (11.3%) make the outcome too close to call.
The survey, conducted last week, was based on responses from 273 Institute members, around two thirds of which are senior managers. It contrasts with a poll of around 100 catering industry delegates at The Caterer's casual dining summit in April where 82% said they would vote to remain in the EU.
In March, a larger The Caterer survey of 800 industry professionals found 61% in favour of remaining in the EU. Staffing and costs were two of the main factors cited.
However, the Institute's poll may suggest that sentiment is shifting as the vote looms.
Half (50.6%) of Institute of Hospitality members polled thought that the UK hospitality industry would suffer outside the EU, while a third (32.7%) thought that it would thrive. More than half (53.8%) thought employment was the key sector issue in the referendum. Only 3.3% thought red tape was an major issue.
While that suggests some consensus, qualitative responses suggest a divided industry with strong feelings on either side of the debate.
"When I list the major supporters of Brexit all I see are tax evading, super-rich parasites who are domiciled outside of the EU," said one pro-EU respondent.
"Our industry has some great people and excellent owners and managers. It also has more than its fair share of exploitation by unscrupulous operators, who do not hesitate to abuse staff to make a few quid more profit," said another. "Leaving the EU would enable the ‘red tape' so often complained about to be reduced or dismissed - the ‘red tape' that protects workers' rights, working hours, minimum wages, health and safety, equality and so much more."
On the other side of the fence, respondents thought the EU had become unwieldy and was ultimately doomed to fail. Others said scaremongering by the Remain camp had changed their minds.
"Our infrastructure cannot cope with the amount of migrants arriving and no local MPs or councilors will admit it or do anything to address it," said one anti-EU respondent.
"I appreciate recruitment will be far more difficult but believe the EU will require ever closer union in many serious competencies and that eventually the EU will fall apart," said another. "We will be better off if we can determine our own path."
A spokesperson for the Institute said it was "apolitical" and had not taken a position on the referendum. "We respect the right of members to vote as they see fit," he said.