Wetherspoon runs low on lager due to shortage of drivers

2 September 2021

JD Wetherspoon has confirmed it is the latest victim of the HGV driver crisis with shortages of lager.

The pub chain said it was running low on stocks of Heineken, Carling and Coors, with signs in pubs saying “lorry drivers and strike action” were the cause. 

Beer shortages have threatened the country’s pubs after a “perfect storm” of Covid-19 and Brexit led to a national shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA).

The RHA estimates around 25,000 EU drivers were forced to return to the EU following Brexit, and a further 25,000 HGV driver tests were delayed due to Covid-19.

Wetherspoon’s founder Tim Martin publicly backed Brexit during the 2016 referendum, issuing pro-Brexit leaflets in pubs across the country. 

A Wetherspoon spokesperson said: “We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused. We know that the brewers are trying to resolve the issue.”

The chain said planned beer delivery driver strikes by GXO Logistics, which supplies around 40% of the country’s beer, had contributed to the shortages. But Unite the Union, which represents the draymen, said this was not possible because the strikes had been suspended. 

A Unite spokesperson said: “Wetherspoon’s troubles have nothing to do with the GXO pay dispute – our members have worked normally throughout this period, as they suspended industrial action while they voted on the pay deal.”

The food and drink industry has been rocked by the driver shortage, which has resulted in delays to deliveries and empty shelves.

Coca-Cola warned customers may face shortages of its fizzy drinks. 

The company's chief financial officer Nik Jhangiani told PA it was facing numerous "logistical challenges" in delivering cans across the country.

Jhangiani said: "Supply chain management has become the most important aspect following the pandemic, to ensure we have continuity for customers.

"We are very happy with how we have performed in the circumstances, with service levels higher than a lot of our market competitors.

"There are still logistical challenges and issues though, as with every sector, and the shortage of aluminium cans is a key one for us now, but we are working with customers to successfully manage this.”

Meanwhile, factory shutdowns in Vietnam due to a spike in Covid cases look to threaten global coffee supplies. 

The country, which is the second-biggest exporter of coffee in the world, has put restrictions in the port of Ho Chi Minh City and in coffee-growing regions, limiting exports of robusta beans, the type most commonly used to make instant coffee.

The Vietnam Coffee-Cocoa Association urged the government to ease the restrictions after traders said they were struggling to get beans to port for export.

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