The foodservice sector is forecast to grow next year, despite concerns around increased costs and staff recruitment, according to a new report.
The British Hospitality Association's Leading Through Unprecedented Change and Uncertainty - Food Service Management Market Report 2017 revealed that the UK foodservice sector saw a turnover of £35b last year and forecasted growth for this year, despite the uncertainties revolving around Brexit.
In particular, respondents to the survey said that they were concerned about post-Brexit immigration and restrictions on the UK labour market with 31% of their overall workforce coming from the EU.
Regardless, they did estimate that they would add 32,000 new jobs next year.
The report also showed that the industry's confidence in government support has dropped. The sector wants the government to introduce ways to improve attractiveness of catering as a long-term career choice.
It also expressed the need for a more measured approach to the National Living Wage and a stronger recognition of the importance of immigration.
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) predicts that the forecast growth will be spurred on by demographic trends, the ageing population and rising student numbers.
The rise of healthy eating and street food were identified as future trends, highlighting the sector's support of the government's ambition to combat obesity and improve the nation's health, with nearly all companies which took part in the survey stating that they had reduced the amount of sugar and salt in their offerings and were providing healthier meals.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said: "This report is a vital resource for those in the industry. Its results show the strength and confidence of the industry but also its concerns, most notably those about Brexit and its impact on employment. We, as the major representative of the hospitality and tourism sector, are the main voice of this industry and can communicate its concerns to government."
Caroline Fry, chief executive business and industry, CH&Co, added: "The report shows that whilst there are clearly some major changes afoot that affect all companies, the foodservice sector is also optimistic about growth and job creation in the short to medium term. This sector works with just about every part of the economy and is a very big employer.
"Given how supportive we are of the Government's efforts to reduce obesity and improve the nation's health, we hope that in return they will understand the challenges faced by the industry and support us, especially when it comes to planning the potential restrictions on the UK labour market."
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