A third of hospitality business in the UK are feeling less confident about their economic prospects over the next 12 months than they do now, according to an American Express study. Publicans were found to be amongst the most negative, with only 20% saying that they felt more confident about the future than the present. Restaurateurs also saw confidence fall by 10% with only 24% currently feeling optimistic about the coming year. Just over a third of hoteliers still felt confident about the future of their business, although the figure was down from 41% a year ago. The findings of the third annual American Express Hospitality Monitor showed that despite the negative sentiment, the industry recognised that that consumers were also feeling the impact of the slowdown and were therefore bucking the trend of passing overheads onto customers. Only 47% of hospitality businesses increased prices, compared to 49% last year, with only 2% of restaurants shown to have passed costs on to their customers. The study revealed that only 16% planned to pass on tax rises to customers, while 56% said that would absorb them. Kathryn Pretzel-Shiels, head of hotels and Restaurants at American Express “Like any other the hospitality sector is not immune to prevailing economic conditions, so it comes as no surprise that Britain’s hospitality industry feels more circumspect about business prospects than it did last year. “The economy is forcing the agenda to a certain extent but the industry is fighting back. There are still opportunities to make money by providing a quality product and memorable service, as consumers are still willing to dine out and are doing it more than ever before.” Key business objectives were found to have remained the same since last year, with 65% looking to reduce the cost of goods and services and 40% intending to work harder to soften the impact of an economic downturn.