Restaurant and pub operators are scaling back expansion plans as market confidence hangs in the balance.
Two thirds of business leaders reported they were optimistic about their own businesses in early 2019, but just 39% were positive about prospects for the market as a whole, according to CGA's 2019 Business Leaders' Survey conducted in partnership with CPL Online.
As a result, just under a quarter (24%) of operators questioned said they planned to open more than five sites this year, compared to 45% in 2016.
Those running drink-led businesses were more optimistic than those leading food-led businesses with 53% feeling positive about the market, compared to 33%.
Phil Tate, group chief executive of CGA, said: "Our Business Leaders' Survey reveals an industry caught between instinctive confidence for growth and caution about the challenges they face. It is encouraging to find that more than two thirds of leaders are optimistic about prospects for 2019 but concerning that far fewer feel upbeat about the market as a whole. We are also seeing a growing divide in confidence levels between pub operators, many of whom enjoyed a good 2018, and the restaurant sector, which endured a tough year.
"With so much talk of market saturation, indications that leaders are reining in their new openings should be little surprise. On top of that, Brexit is casting a long shadow over ambitions. But difficulties for some operators will always create opportunities for others, and leaders of well-defined and customer-focused brands are going into 2019 with grounds for cautious optimism."Get The Caterer every week on your smartphone, tablet, or even in good old-fashioned hard copy (or all three!).