Coronavirus and the government's new immigration policy have seen confidence among pub and restaurant bosses plummet to depths similar to those seen immediately following the EU referendum.
A new poll, conducted this week by data experts CGA found just "16% of bosses now optimistic about the market over the next 12 months".
The data showed 85% of senior executives across the out-of-home food and drink market were now "concerned" about the threat of coronavirus to their businesses, with 58% of leaders "very concerned".
The "snap survey" of "close to 100 bosses" across hospitality operators ranging from small independents to big corporates confirmed that optimism around their own businesses' prospects has also plummeted, with only 29% optimistic - a significant fall from the 83% "four-year high" of sector optimism, as reported in CGA's annual Business Leaders' Survey that was carried out in partnership with hospitality technology specialist Fourth in early February.
The majority of those polled also feared a downturn in sales, with 42% suggesting it will have an "extremely negative" impact and 51% saying it will be "quite negative". In addition, over half (51%) predict the virus will have an "extremely negative" impact on their profitability, with a further 44% suggesting it will be relatively negative.
When asked about what their businesses are doing to minimise the coronavirus risk, the main actions reported were:
Producing staff guidelines to encourage hygienic practices (83%) Increasing availability of hand sanitisers on-site (65%) Producing staff guidelines in case of isolation cases (64%) Minimising cashflow risks (61%) Producing staff guidelines on how to self-isolate (60%) Producing staff guidelines for travel and health (56%) Developing a plan to minimise impact of potential site closures (48%)
Just under half of leaders (47%) said they would pay staff who self -isolate while 45% have not yet made a decision. 8% suggested that they will not pay staff who self-isolate due to the virus.