Chefs and foodservice operators are now more confident about future trading levels than they were a year ago, according to a new report.
Restaurants, bars and pubs also reported selling more food at weekends, and said they were not planning to cut costs as much as in previous years.
The 2014 Eating Out-Look study from foodservice company Horizons and JRA Research found that 86% of chefs and foodservice operators anticipated sales to rise in the next year, and felt that they were less likely to introduce cost-cutting measures.
A quarter of the businesses asked were anticipating an increase in sales, with restaurateurs most optimistic (34% expected a significant rise), followed by hotels (25%), and pubs and bars (20%).
The proportion of business expecting to cut costs has also fallen to 67% this year, compared with 73% in the 2013 poll. Similarly, the percentage of those hoping to renegotiate equipment maintenance costs has fallen from 28% to 27%, while 34% of respondents were planning to increase staff wages, compared with just 21% last year.
The percentage expecting to introduce wage freezes has dropped from 41% last year to 30% this year.
The poll also found that more than half of respondents were serving more meals at the weekend than six months ago, including an upsurge in lunchtime trade, alongside an improvement in starters and dessert sales, which had been especially hit by the downturn.
Pubs and bars reported especially improved food sales.
Emma Read, Horizons' director of marketing and business development, commented that customers were still cost-conscious, but far less so than last year.
She 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 cost-cutting measures they implemented last year."