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Mon 4th Jun 2018 - Confidence starts returning to sector as operators have highest level of optimism for more than two years
Confidence starts returning to sector as operators have highest level of optimism for more than two years: Confidence is starting to return to the sector despite a host of pressures, with operators having the highest levels of optimism for more than two years, the latest CGA Fourth Business Confidence Survey has revealed. But there remains a gap between the optimism leaders of Britain’s restaurant, pub and bar groups have about their own businesses and their confidence in the market as a whole. The survey, carried out by business insight consultancy CGA in partnership with hospitality software provider Fourth, revealed 75% of company leaders were now optimistic about the prospects for their own business over the next 12 months – up 11% from the time of the last confidence survey in February. There was also an upswing in bosses’ confidence for the overall market, although the survey found fewer than half (47%) were upbeat about prospects for the wider eating and drinking out sector over the next 12 months. This also represented an 11% increase on three months earlier, and both figures were the highest recorded by the survey since February 2016. However, they are still below the levels seen before the Brexit vote. In February, three quarters of leaders said their businesses had been adversely affected by the consequences of the referendum. CGA chief executive Phil Tate said: “The more upbeat tone of the survey appears at odds with the recent news of some high-profile restaurant closures in the first half of this year, driven by business challenges including rising food, people and property costs and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. But it might be because of this market shake out, coupled with more stable food prices, that business executives are now gaining more confidence.” Fourth chief executive Ben Hood added: “In the face of challenging external headwinds in rising costs of both labour and inventory, there remains a cohort of outstanding operators who are constantly looking inwardly at their businesses and investing in the marketing and technology they need to increase efficiencies and improve their offer and the customer experience. There will always be an appetite for spending on food and drink among UK consumers, it’s ingrained in our culture, and these slick, streamlined businesses are in pole position to thrive over the coming years.” Tate noted the continuing gap between market and individual business confidence was a cause for concern as it highlighted an underlying nervousness that might affect corporate investment and growth decisions. But with CGA data indicating people continue to go out to eat and drink, the results show there was plenty of room for distinctive, customer-focused brands to succeed. He added: “After a tough start to 2018, this latest Business Confidence Survey is a welcome reminder that hospitality remains an essentially upbeat industry. CGA’s research shows like-for-like sales growth is modest, and many restaurant, pub and bar operators have scaled back their new openings plans – but conditions that challenge some businesses can also bring opportunities for others.”

Leon makes Scandinavian debut, with Oslo opening: Natural fast food brand Leon has made its Scandinavian debut, in Norway. The restaurant, operated by Umoe, has opened in Oslo Central station. At the same time, by Aker Brygge pier, Leon has opened a food truck serving a curated menu of Leon classics. This first foothold in Oslo will pave the way for further Scandinavian restaurants as part of Leon’s plans to expand internationally. The Leon Oslo menu gives guests the opportunity to try dishes that have been on the menu since its first restaurant opened in Carnaby Street in London in 2004, including the Moroccan meatball hotbox, fish finger wrap and the original super salad. Leon co-founder and chief executive John Vincent said: “I am so happy to be opening in Oslo. It’s a wonderful city full of the most interesting and inspirational people. I can’t wait to see what people think of Leon and of naturally fast food.” Helene Skjenneberg, managing director of Leon for Umoe, added: “Launching Leon means we get to bring the future of fast food to Norway. We have exciting times in front of us and look forward to offering Norwegians a whole new concept of fast food based on natural ingredients.”

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