Eating out sector leaders are feeling more positive in 2020 compared to last year, with fewer describing conditions as challenging, MCA’s Top of Mind survey reveals.

While 54% of eating out professionals still describe the market conditions as challenging, the proportion is significantly down on last year (76%), suggesting sentiment is starting to turn after three years of rising negativity.

Meanwhile, 30% said trading conditions were positive, up from 19% last year, indicating the industry is starting to adapt to the new reality.

The key themes driving positive sentiment include diversification, a greater focus on value and efficiency, investment, and a sense of “light at the end of the tunnel”.

However 84% still believe that there will be more closures in 2020.

The number one and rising concern for the sector is attracting high quality shop floor staff, which has become more challenging since the Brexit referendum.

The behaviour of Millennials and Gen Z was rated as the top consumer trend set to impact eating out.

Delivery focused operators, contemporary fast food and food halls are tipped to outpace growth in the eating out market, while branded restaurants are expected to underperform.

More operators are tipped to enter food to go in 2020, while plant-based eating is top in terms of cuisine growth expectations.

Top of Mind 2020 is a survey carried out by MCA and HIM insight into sentiment among leaders of the eating out, grocery and retail sectors.