A third of UK hospitality businesses could go bust, industry warns

FILE PHOTO: Closed Pubs in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Over a third of the UK's hospitality sector is at risk of going bust early next year due to soaring energy costs, rises in the cost of goods and falling consumer spending, according to a survey published on Monday.

The survey by UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping and Hospitality Ulster showed that 35% of respondents were expecting to be operating at a loss or to be unviable by the end of this year.

It found that 77% of operators are seeing a decrease in people eating and drinking out, 85% expect this situation to worsen, and 89% are either not confident or are pessimistic that the current levels of support offered by government will protect the industry.

UK consumers have been reining in their spending with inflation hitting 10% and they also face the prospect of a tighter squeeze in 2023 after finance minister Jeremy Hunt said he would scrap tax cuts previously planned by former prime minister Liz Truss and scaled back her vast energy support scheme for households.

Hospitality represents 10% of UK employment, 6% of businesses and 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to UKHospitality.

The trade associations said continued uncertainty about rising inflation, future regulation and staffing is causing a crisis of confidence among business owners.

"If urgent action isn't taken, it is looking incredibly likely that we will lose a significant chunk of Britain's iconic hospitality sector in the coming weeks and months," they said in a joint statement.

Ahead of Hunt's fiscal statement on Nov. 17 they called for further business rates relief and a move to cut VAT sales tax for hospitality.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Gareth Jones)