Hospitality leaders adapt in response to rising costs and changing habits

Philip Turner, founder and CEO of The Chestnut Group, the restaurants, pubs and hotels business

Philip Turner, founder and CEO of The Chestnut Group, the restaurants, pubs and hotels business - Credit: Archant

Leading Suffolk hospitality operators have spoken about how they are adapting their businesses to cope with rising food and staff costs and consumers reigning in their spending.

Cousins Robert and Oliver Paul at Suffolk Food Hall.

Cousins Robert and Oliver Paul at Suffolk Food Hall. - Credit: Archant

Their comments follow the publication of a survey which reveals a drop in confidence among business leaders in the eating and drinking out sectors.

The CGA’s latest Business Confidence Survey found that 30% of leaders of restaurant pub, bar and coffee shop groups are optimistic about general market prospects for the next 12 months, down from 36% a year ago. Optimism about prospects for their own businesses has followed a similar trajectory, falling from 61% in the first quarter to 52% in this latest survey.

The research is based on responses from more than 100 senior executives across the sector, including big corporates and small entrepreneurial operators.

Founder of the Chestnut Group Philip Turner said there are “definite headwinds in terms of food inflation and staffing costs” but said the business, which operates hotels, bars and restaurants across five sites in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, was adapting to these trends.

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He continued:”We have always championed local produce but also bought in French cheeses and wines from the Continent but now because of the weakening pound against the Euro we have looked to buy more Norfolk and Suffolk cheeses and our wine list has become more New World-orientated.”

As regards staffing costs, Mr Turner said his approach has been to invest in training for his employees, so they work more efficiently.

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“That way you can employ less staff but pay them more,” he added.

At the Suffolk Food Hall, near Ipswich, co-owner Oliver Paul said he had seen a “changing dynamic” at his premises.

He said: “We have seen an increased footfall but people are spending less with each visit both in the farm shop and in the restaurant.

“Eating habits are changing, people are grazing and having smaller meals. We’ve had to change and offer a continuous meal service throughout the day rather than just at set meal times. We have to offer top quality but cater for more people, more quickly.”

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