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Food shortages: The places hit by Brexit and Covid supply chain issues

Greggs and McDonald’s have become the latest food outlets hit by shortages. The lack of HGV drivers has been blamed on Brexit and Covid.

The number of fast-food chains and stores being hit by supply shortages is increasing daily as the lack of HGV drivers continues to cause disarray.

Nando’s was the first major outlet forced to take drastic action when it shut 50 branches in mid-August due to supply chain issues. Chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association Nick Allen warned the closures were just “the tip of the iceberg” and more would be on the way due to labour problems that started with Brexit. And he’s been proved right.

It follows a survey by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier in August that estimated there was a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers in the UK, out of a pre-pandemic total of about 600,000.

Covid restrictions and workers having to self-isolate are also said to be a factor, though post-Brexit EU immigration have largely shouldered the blame.

One driver told The Big Issue poor working conditions were also pushing people out of the industry.

Here’s a round-up of everywhere we know has been affected.

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KFC

The original fast-food chicken chain is no stranger to supply issues, and earlier in August first warned customers to expect limited menus and unusual packaging.

In a statement, it said: “Just a heads up that across our country, there’s been some disruption over the last few weeks – so things may be a little different when you next visit us.

“You might find some items aren’t available or our packaging might look a little different to normal.

“We know it’s not ideal, but we’re working hard to keep things running smoothly. In the meantime, please be patient with our incredible teams…they’re doing a brilliant job despite the disruptions.

The British Poultry Council has said the meat industry is facing a significant shortage of workers across farming and processing with businesses reporting an average vacancy rate of over 16% of their total workforce.

It said the alarming number of gaps is continuing to grow due to the effects of Brexit and “compounded by a government that continually acts against the best interests of British food producers”.

Nando’s

If there’s a chicken shortage, Nando’s is also likely to be in trouble. And that’s what happened as the result of, as the restaurant itself put it, the UK supply chain “having a bit of a ‘mare right now.”

Thankfully for fans of its peri-peri dishes, the problem was resolved after four painstaking days and the stores were reopened.

McDonald’s

It was then the turn of McDonald’s to be hit by problems to menu favourites.

The chain announced on August 24 it had run out of milkshakes and some bottled drinks at some of its 1,250 restaurants in England, Scotland and Wales owing to supply chain issues.

A statement from McDonald’s said it was “working hard” to limit the impact on deliveries and customers and had taken some items off its menus for now.

“As reported, a number of issues are impacting retailers in the UK at the moment, one of which is the nationwide shortage of HGV drivers,” a spokesperson said.

Greggs

The major bakery chain has become the latest to be hit with shortages, though it was quick to deny they were impacting on the popular chicken bakes.

A Greggs spokesperson said: “There are no current supply issues with our chicken bakes and our customers can continue to enjoy these as they usually would.

“Unfortunately, like others, we’re seeing temporary interruptions in supply for some ingredients which occasionally results in shops not being able to maintain full availability on all lines.”

Subway

The sandwich chain has stated they are facing “minor supply chain shortages” affecting fresh produce, but said it was working to ensure customers face minimal disruption.

A spokesperson said: “We appreciate that supply chain pressure is something a lot of the industry is experiencing at the moment.

Costa

The coffee shop told customers it had also been facing supply chain issues in recent weeks, an issue said to be affecting decaffeinated drinks at its outlets.

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Co-op

Grocery stores and supermarkets are also being hit hard by the shortages.

Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, told The Times on Thursday it was reducing some ranges as the industry’s ability to get food to shops was hit by post-Brexit migration rules and Covid-19.

“The shortages are at a worse level than at any time I have seen,” he said.

Murrells, added the crisis was the result of “Brexit and issues caused by Covid” and revealed the Co-op is retraining staff as lorry drivers because of the shortfall.

Sainsbury’s

The supermarket giant this week responded to a customer on Twitter to acknowledge issues with availability in its stores.

Tesco

Responding to the same tweet, a Tesco spokesperson said: “We have deliveries arriving at our stores every day, and while there’s plenty to go around, we are experiencing some disruption due to an industry-wide shortage of HGV drivers.

They added: “This has led to temporary low availability on some products but we’re working hard to get shelves fully stocked.”

Asda

Asda has also taken to Twitter this week to confirm shortages in stores. The retailer said in a tweet on Monday that it’s “currently experiencing availability issues” as a result of the driver shortages but it’s “working to manage the situation” and hopes to see improvements as soon as possible.

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