New survey reveals light at the end of the tunnel for hospitality

Uncertainty continues to dominate amid Brexit negotiations, but there is optimism on the horizon, according to the Nisbets Spring 2017 Pulse Survey

Uncertainty continues to dominate amid Brexit negotiations, but there is optimism on the horizon according to Nisbets Spring 2017 Pulse Survey

The first Nisbets Pulse survey was carried out in June 2016 on the week Britain voted to leave the EU. It assesses the hospitality industry’s mood by questioning key players on the issues of the day.

Pessimism emerged in abundance from last year’s survey. Brexit was a sticking point; 40% of those asked feared that Brexit would have a negative effect on their business. Worries over the potential for ingredient prices to rise were the main source of concern, with increased vacancies and the difficulties of filling them compounding fears over Britain’s departure from the EU.

Findings in 2017

Brexit was once again front and centre in this year’s survey. Recruitment, business in the next 12 months and food trends were also important topics for investigation.

The results show that initial despondency over Brexit has settled into a longer-term uncertainty, as ambiguity swirls around negotiations. 29% of respondents anticipate Brexit will have some negative effect on their business, but a majority – 66% – is now uncertain about the possible impact rather than outright pessimistic.

Interestingly, when asked about their firms’ prospects more broadly, respondents were remarkably upbeat. 79% said they were feeling either slightly or very positive about “general custom” in the year ahead, despite concerns over food costs and recruitment persisting from last year.

Jo Smith, digital marketing manager for Nisbets Plc, suggests that firms who have adapted to the current climate have good reason to be optimistic. “Mostly because of the value of the pound, staycations could offset at least part of any losses,” she says. “Those businesses comfortable with adapting to change in order to meet customer demand are expected to be best-equipped to ride the wave.”

Staying ahead of food trends will be a crucial ingredient for success, regularly cited by the respondents most upbeat about the year ahead. Healthy eating and locally sourced produce were identified as the top two food trends to watch by respondents – “offering greater choice and healthier options could see them through the bumpy ride that may lie ahead,” says Smith.

The outlook for foodservice

Political and economic uncertainty provides an unpleasant context for foodservice consultants to work in. But there are wider changes afoot for industry professionals to tap into.

Diets are evolving. Vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise as consumers shift from high calorie meals towards low calorie, plant based alternatives. This is embodied by the Millennial generation, a more technologically attuned, ethically aware group of eaters. “Businesses that capitalise on this trend are those that are likely to flourish,” says Smith.

There are more structural changes to be aware of in the year ahead, to do with how consumers eat as much as what they are eating. These will impact menus further. “Home cook style meals, responsible sourced natural ingredients and less formal, freedom eating options are here to stay,” says Smith.

The Nesbits Pulse survey shows that attitudes to food are changing. Foodservice professionals must be prepared to tap into these changes, the impact of which will dominate the industry long after the turmoil of Brexit has passed.

Thomas Lawrence

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