Switzerland's catering industry has managed to stem its downward sales spiral and is talking of a business revival in 2006.
But Gastrosuisse, the restaurant owners' association, said on Wednesday that overcapacity in the sector remained a concern.
Despite stagnant sales of around SFr22 billion ($18 billion) over the past year – little change on the previous year – Gastrosuisse said it now expects business to start picking up.
Of the SFr22 billion, SFr16 billion came from restaurants and SFr6 billion from hotels – overnight stays doing significantly better than catering.
Over the past year, hotels managed to increase their turnover by up to 4.4 per cent, but it took restaurants until the fourth quarter to post their first rise in turnover, of 0.2 per cent, since 2000.
Gastrosuisse said solid homely fare and Swiss specialities were the most popular choices in restaurants, but fish dishes and vegetarian and Italian remained popular.
The reduced legal alcohol limit, which was introduced at the beginning of 2005 and which focused on a "one glass is enough" campaign, certainly hasn't helped the industry.
Gastrosuisse said two-thirds of outlets had incurred losses as a result of the lowered limit since alcoholic drinks make up a fifth of their turnover.
In addition, the sector's 218,000 employees are still struggling with the ongoing issue of overcapacity. Switzerland's 30,000 food and drink outlets – from village pubs to luxury hotels – correspond to one for every 250 inhabitants.
Gastrosuisse reckons there are around 10,000 outlets too many.
In a separate development, Klaus Künzli, head of Gastrosuisse, confirmed on Wednesday that his organisation intends to introduce this summer a hotel rating system to rival that of hotelleriesuisse, Switzerland's hotel owners' association.
The plan, launched in January, was not welcomed with traditional Swiss hospitality by the hotel association, which is not ruling out legal action.
"Gastrosuisse's hotel rating system is ready," said Künzli. "Small and medium-sized hotels will get a simple and practicable system which will enable them to rate the quality of what they offer and to position themselves in the market successfully."
Gastrosuisse has said for a while that small hotel owners have a hard time fulfilling the criteria set out by hotelleriesuisse.
Hotelleriesuisse – which pioneered the concept of stars in the 1970s – says it will not give up what it believes is an exclusive right to star hotels.
"We're not in principle against Gastrosuisse having its own rating system," said Christoph Juen, head of Hotelleriesuisse. "But we will fight against the use of stars."
Hotelleriesuisse believes that two systems would only confuse customers and would be a disservice to both them and the hotel.
swissinfo with agencies
Gastrosuisse represents 20,530 Swiss hotels and restaurants. Approximately 218,000 people work in the sector.
Hotelleriesuisse is the national umbrella organisation of 21 regional hotelier associations and their more than 100 branches.
The association has 3,350 members of which 2,300 are hotels, which when combined generate in excess of 80% of all overnight hotel stays in Switzerland.
In compliance with the JTI standards