The motivational speaker Vivian Greene’s most famous quote was “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”. As we enter a fourth year of the pandemic (and its aftermath) this certainly rings true for me with regard to our sector.

Indeed, the UK hospitality sector has (by necessity) been dancing in the rain now for the best part of three years. Such was the depth and intensity of the pandemic that this time last year there was genuine optimism that the worst was over, and that something approaching the benign pre-pandemic environment would emerge during the year ahead.

What we have learned in 2022 is that just like in real storms we have to cope with the aftermath as well as the storm itself, and that much of the wreckage has a nasty habit of combining with other debris to make matters even worse. So, if ever there were a year when Vivian’s quote would be particularly apposite it will be 2023.


During 2022 the economic problems have certainly been mounting. As a nation we are losing our long-term battle to raise GDP growth, and weakened by the pandemic (and some pretty loose economic management by the government in mid-year) we now have a gap in the country’s finances that will be a drag on growth throughout 2023 at least. In previous recessions a weak pound has enabled us to improve exports, but in 2023 Brexit is a drag on our ability to do this as well, and indeed has pushed up the cost of imports. It has also been a major factor in the structural tightness within the labour market, leading to many of the major hospitality brands increasing wages by as much as double-digit percentages. Immigration rose in 2022 and may well continue to do so in the coming year, which may provide some relief. Industrial unrest has become a dominant part of the economic landscape with the Rail Strikes alone costing the country over half a billion pounds so far. Even Christmas this year threatens to be devastated by the Rail strikes.

The CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index shows food inflation at the hospitality kitchen door currently at 20%. Whilst we expect inflation to fall next year, prices will just rise more slowly, rather than fall. Economist’s consensus on interest rates are that they will rise in December, again in February, and then again in March.

Overall the economy is now starting to shrink, and is expected to do so further in 2023 which will inevitably hurt consumer demand for hospitality.


Our sector is being hit with rising costs that are squeezing margins and a cost of living crisis creating falling demand. Interest rate rises will impact the cost of borrowing and the credit appetite of many funders will be more conservative, limiting access to debt. Operators with limited cash resources may well struggle or even go out of business.


The Ukraine War has added several % points to food inflation, and shows little sign of ending soon. The potential for wide-scale escalation of the conflict remains fairly low, but is ever-present. Recent unrest in China because of their government’s policy of lockdowns may well lead to some kind of national action, including border closures, which would further impact already weakened global supply chains.


In spite of all the above, we have seen the welcome emergence of Sustainability as a major area of activity for operators. But the recent COP-27 failed to make a clear commitment to phase out the use of fossil fuels, instead delivering a vague agreement that rich countries should pay poor ones for climate-related “loss and damage”. The constraint of Global Temperatures to +1.5 degrees C now looks like an unachievable goal. Specifically for our sector this will drive food and drink inflation in the latter part of this decade.


I really don’t like doom and gloom. After all, great businesses are not forged in a fire of pessimism. But I do think that we need to face the facts, and ask ourselves the question “So how do we dance in the rain?” I am sure there are many strategies… but in 2023, when expansion requires caution, and cash is tight, my contribution is Challenge Everything.

In recent weeks I have met many operators who have voiced their determination to strip away their own paradigms in 2023 to make it a year when operationally they leave no stone unturned – asset ultilisation, product offering, menus, marketing, promotion, brand, sales, technology, make or buy, supply chain, recruitment, retention, energy, rates – the list is a long one. In particular, they voiced a hunger to use their experience to question the places where in the past they have bowed to the better technical knowledge of their teams, being open-minded to the possibility that they may be stuck in a rut.

This feels to me like a sound plan for 2023. Creativity should be the preserve of the whole business, not just the sexy bits. In each and every category there will be many opportunities to do it better, simply by looking at the detail, learning from the competition, seeking advice, and involving the team. Value will always emerge, sometimes in small incremental changes, sometimes delivering transformation, but in cumulative getting into the detail and challenging everything will deliver in spades, and perhaps even have you dancing in the rain.