Exclusive: Greggs is the latest high-profile food outlet to be affected by supply chain disruption, with the bakery chain dealing with shortages of chicken-based products.
A major shortage of lorry drivers in the UK, as well as labour shortages elsewhere like in processing and packaging, has triggered a slowdown in products reaching supermarket shelves and restaurants.
PoliticsHome understands that disruption to poultry supplies, which last week forced Nando's to temporarily close 50 stores, is also impacting Greggs, which has over 2,000 stores nationwide.
Bakery staff reported a number of chicken shortages across the Greggs menu, including the chicken bake, the chargrill chicken oval bite, and several chicken-filled baguettes.
The bakery confirmed a small number of products had been affected by ongoing supply chain disruption, but insisted the popular chicken bake was currently unaffected.
“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," a Greggs spokesperson said. "However, we have a wide range of choices in our menu for customers happy to buy an alternative.”
The dearth of supply chain workers, which has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and post-Brexit immigration rules, has led to household names like McDonald's running out of certain items. A spokesperson for McDonald's said its stores had no more milkshakes.
Earlier this month KFC said that some items on its menu were not available in UK stores due to the disruption.
British Poultry Council Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths said that members had reported a 5-10% drop in weekly chicken production as a result of workforce issues.
"They are currently producing a reduced range of products for UK customers, and are seriously concerned that the supply of staple chicken products will be impacted," Griffiths said.
"When you don’t have people, you have a problem – and this is something we are seeing across the whole supply chain."
Multiple industry groups have called on ministers to help tackle labour shortages in the short-term by temporarily relaxing immigration rules for lorry drivers from the European Union.
Trade association Logistics UK has urged the Home Office to grant 10,000 temporary visas to EU drivers, pointing to analysis of Office for National Statistics data showing that 14,000 left the UK in the year to June 2020, while just 600 have returned in the past year.
However, the government is adamant that it will not use immigrants to tackle the problem and has urged employers to train and hire more British workers to make up the shortfall.
"The British people repeatedly voted to end free movement and take back control of our immigration system and employers should invest in our domestic workforce instead of relying on labour from abroad," a Home Office spokesperson said.
The government has announced plans to "streamline" lorry driving tests amid an estimated backlog of around 45,000 tests that were put on hold during the pandemic. It has also relaxed drivers' hours rule so HGV drivers can make longer journeys where it is safe to do so.
An exclusive poll for PoliticsHome showed strong public support for relaxing immigration rules for EU lorry drivers.
The independent survey, carried out by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, found that 47% of respondents supported the government relaxing rules for EU drivers, while 21% opposed it.
Over half of respondents — 56% — said they supported adding lorry drivers to the UK's Shortage Occupation List, making it easier for employers to recurit staff from abroad. 11% opposed it.
An overwhelming 83% of people polled said they had read or heard about the ongoing driver shortage and nearly nearly two thirds of those — 61% — said they were concerned by it.
Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, was quoted in The Times today as saying that the ongoing food shortages "are at a worse level than at any time I have seen."
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