Greggs said it was 'seeing temporary interruptions in supply' © Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Greggs said it was 'seeing temporary interruptions in supply' © Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Costa, Greggs and Subway suffer unpredictable shortages

26 August 2021

Costa, Greggs and Subway have become the latest food chains to offer reduced menus amid disruption caused by labour and HGV driver shortages.

The UK’s food chain is coming under increasing pressure as Covid-19 and Brexit have created the “perfect storm” for supply chain disorder.

Greggs told Supply Management the products being disrupted were changing on a daily basis and it wasn’t one single product line being affected. 

The company said: “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.”

Customers are reporting that certain Costa stores have run out of coffee and the company confirmed on Twitter it is “facing some supply chain issues” which it is “working hard to resolve”.

A Costa spokesperson told SM: “Like many other businesses, we are currently experiencing some stock shortages and as a result some items may be temporarily unavailable. We apologise for any disappointment or inconvenience caused to our customers.”

Meanwhile, sandwich store Subway also confirmed it is offering a reduced menu as a result of supply chain shortages.

A Subway spokesperson said: “We’re experiencing minor supply chain shortages relating to some fresh produce. 

“We appreciate that supply chain pressure is something a lot of the industry is experiencing at the moment.”

The news comes amid a week of disruption to UK food chains, as the Office for National Statistics found 27% of food and accommodation firms have reported lower than average stock levels.

Both Nandos and KFC warned of food shortages after the companies struggled to get enough chicken to its stores. 

A spokesperson from the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers told SM there is currently a shortfall of 14,000 workers within the meat industry, which is having long-term effects on the food sector. They predicted without government intervention Christmas food items like turkeys and pigs in blankets will be in short supply this Christmas. 

The British Poultry Council (BPC) said the industry is currently reporting vacancy rates of over 16%, and the BPC said its members have faced a 5-10% drop in weekly chicken production as a result of workforce issues.  

The BPC last week wrote to the Home Office calling on the government to tackle the worker shortages, but the trade body is yet to receive a response. 

The BPC said limiting the number of people from outside of the UK who are allowed to work in the country had "jeopardised food businesses and made access to quality British food harder for people in this country".

Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the BPC, told Sky News: "When you don't have people, you have a problem - and this is something we are seeing across the whole supply chain. The labour crisis is a Brexit issue."

Country Range, which delivers food to care homes, schools, restaurants and small shops, said it was buying a range of smaller vans to mitigate the shortage of HGV drivers. 

Managing director Coral Rose told BBC’s Radio 4 the move had been taken in order to get goods delivered without drivers needing to take specific HGV driver tests.

Rose said: “There's lot of drivers who are able to drive but can't go on the road at the moment because they couldn't take their tests or refresher course and training through the last year because of Covid, so there's potential to release a lot more drivers. There could be some increased resource in that area as well and that would help."

Meanwhile, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said UK car production hit its lowest levels for any July on record since 1956.

UK carmakers made 53,400 vehicles in July, a 37.6% year-on-year drop, as car manufacturers battled with the global shortage of semiconductor chips.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “These figures lay bare the extremely tough conditions UK car manufacturers continue to face. While the impact of the ‘pingdemic’ will lessen as self-isolation rules change, the worldwide shortage of semiconductors shows little sign of abating."

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