The quarterly survey of business leaders across the UK pub, bar and restaurant sector showed that 44% of respondents were optimistic about the market for the coming year.
This is the highest result since May 2018, and a marked difference from the 30% recorded in the survey three months ago.
Operator’s confidence in business prospects has also risen throughout the quarter, from 58% up to 64%.
However, these figures are still “well below” the levels of optimism recorded before the 2016 referendum, a reflection of the impact Brexit uncertainty has had on the industry.
Moreover, “squeezed” consumer spending and rising costs are a point of concern for many business leaders going into 2020, according to the survey.
Some 53% of respondents believe that consumers will eat and drink out less over the next six months, while 32% predict that the average spend for consumers will fall.
CGA group chief Phil Tate said: “The sector still faces a host of challenges, many of which, like political uncertainty and increased costs, are out of their control.
“But this is a resilient and innovative industry, and even during testing times there are big opportunities for operators with the right concept with the right price and the right consumer focus.”
He added: “If businesses can get some economic stability and the right support from government, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2020.”
Simon Bocca, Fourth’s chief operating officer, said: “It is encouraging to see some green shoots of optimism and I hope this will gather momentum with a pro-business election result.
“This has the potential to unlock industry investment and a corresponding uptick in consumer confidence. However, it’s clear there are three Ps that remain front of mind for our business leaders – people, profit and politics.”
He added: “With people, the market is absolutely unified in the sense that the best teams will make the difference and those businesses that can attract, keep, engage and train the right people to deliver the right guest experience every time are best placed to win.
“In terms of profitability, the rising tide of cost inflation across every line of the P&L, notably for workforce, goods and property, keeps coming and the industry is waging a war to defend and grow profitability, daily.”