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McDonald's, Greggs, Tesco: The Household Names Suffering Food Shortages Amid The Labour Crisis


5 min read

A labour shortage compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit has triggered a slowdown in food and drink reaching supermarket shelves and some of the UK's most popular restaurants.

The country is short of around 100,000 lorry drivers, the Road Haulage Association estimates. A dearth of workers is impacting other parts of supply chain like processing and packaging, too.

The crisis is straining the entire system, and in recent weeks household names like McDonald's and the Co-op have sounded the alarm about the impact it is having on on their food supplies.

The disruption is expected to get worse in the coming weeks and months with demand for groceries rocketing at Christmas time. The industry is also bracing itself for the introduction of checks on goods from European Union, which will unleash a new wave of paperwork. 

Here is a list of supermarkets and eateries which have already reported food shortages. 


Earlier this week McDonald's said its 1,250 stores across England, Scotland and Wales had run out of milkshakes and some bottled drinks amid the supply chain chaos.

"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," the fast-food chain said in a statement, adding that it was "working hard" to limit the disruption.


Disruption to chicken supplies forced Nando's to temporarily close over 40 stores last week.

The restaurant chain, famous for its peri-peri chicken, in a Twitter response to a disappointed customer said: "The UK supply chain is having a bit of a (night)mare right now."

A Nando's spokesperson added: "The UK food industry has been experiencing disruption across its supply chain in recent weeks due to staff shortages and Covid isolations, and a number of our restaurants have been impacted."


Nando's isn't the only food outlet to be hit by disruption to chicken supplies.

PoliticsHome exclusively reported this week that high-street bakery Greggs has been impacted.

Greggs 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 later confirmed a small number of products had been affected by ongoing supply chain disruption, but insisted the popular chicken bake was unaffected at the time. 


Fried chicken specialists KFC has also felt the strain, earlier this month announcing it had been forced to temporarily take some items off the menu in its stores due to supply chain disruption.

British Poultry Council Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, says the orgainisation's 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."


Subway has admitted facing problems getting hold of fresh produce.

A spokesperson for the sandwich franchise said: "We appreciate that supply chain pressure is something a lot of the industry is experiencing at the moment.”


The coffeehouse chain this week tweeted a customer saying: "We are facing some supply chain issues just now. We're working hard to resolve this ASAP."

Costa hasn't confirmed which items on its menu are affected, but customers have reported shortages of decaffeinated coffee beans and paninis.


Steve Murrells, chief executive of the Co-operative Group, became the latest high-profile industry figure to sound the alarm this week, telling The Times that the food shortages were "at a worse level than at any time I have seen."

The Co-op was being forced to limit the sale of certain items, he said, as supply chain disruption was making it more difficult to get hold of supplies.


Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland, said this week that 30-40 deliveries to Iceland stores nationwide were being cancelled every day due to the ongoing lorry driver shortage.

He joined the chorus of industry leaders warning that the disruption posed a risk to supplies this Christmas, when demand for food and drink rockets, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We’ve got Christmas around the corner, and in retail we start to stock build really from September onwards."

He said: "We’ve got a lot of goods to transport between now and Christmas and a strong supply chain is vital for everyone.

"The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we’ve already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute, and I’d hate this one to be problematic as well.”


Tesco chairman John Allan this week said "there may be some shortages" this Christmas but urged people not to panic buy.

Tesco earlier this summer said the driver shortage was resulting in 48 tonnes of food being binned every week as there were not enough people to deliver it to stores.

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