The food and beverage industry has faced enormous challenges over the past 18 months and, unfortunately, this trend seems set to continue. Although cafes and restaurants are once again able to open at full capacity, they are now being threatened by food shortages. But what are businesses doing to tackle this issue?
What’s Going On?
On 17 August, popular restaurant Nando’s was forced to close 45 of its restaurants due to a shortage of chicken, the brand’s signature offering.
Less than a week later, McDonald’s announced that it would temporarily remove milkshakes and certain bottled drinks from the menu due to a shortage of lorry drivers. On 25 August, the fast-food company axed six additional items.
Meanwhile, pub chain Wetherspoons claim to be aware of impending shortages of certain items. Confectionary giant Haribo also professed to be struggling due to a lack of HGV drivers.
Why Is This Happening?
In short, the current food shortages are largely down to a lack of HGV drivers across the UK. This means that items are being delayed in transit and many orders are being cancelled altogether, leading to shortages of fast-moving consumer goods.
The lack of HGV drivers is a consequence of a perfect storm of several key issues:
- Self-isolating workers
- 30,000 missed HGV driving tests due to the pandemic
- An aging workforce, meaning that retirement rates are higher than recruitment rates
- Changes to import and export laws due to Brexit
- Changes to visa rules, prompting HGV drivers and F&B workers to leave the UK
As a result of worker shortages, supermarkets are raising their wages to attract new staff, making it even more difficult for small businesses to hang onto their employees.
What Are Businesses Doing?
Many cafes and restaurants are adjusting their menus in order to tackle ingredient shortages. As mentioned, McDonald’s has removed six popular food items from the menu, including the McSpicy chicken burger and the quarter pounder. However, it has softened the blow by bringing back several old favourites, including two variations of the beloved Big Tasty burger.
For months now, coffee chain Starbucks has been struggling with shortages of popular ingredients like chai, feta cheese and oat milk. However, customers are able to use the Starbucks app to check the availability of menu items in nearby locations in order to avoid disappointment and save wasted trips.
Food distribution companies are increasing salaries and benefits for their workers in order to prevent them from being poached by supermarkets, but warn that they can only absorb so much of the costs.
Logistics UK, one of the country’s largest transport associations, has called upon the government to grant 10,000 temporary work visas to EU drivers in order to ease pressure on the supply chain.
Using ERP Solutions
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions can help F&B businesses predict and prepare for the impact of food shortages. ERP systems allow businesses to identify which areas will be hardest hit and take informed action to avoid disappointing customers and preserve profits.
Until the labour shortage is plugged, it is likely that food & beverage businesses will continue to be threatened by food shortages. The best thing that business owners can do is to stay informed on these issues, so that they can take fast action if affected by a shortage. Smart menu engineering and careful substitutions can also go a long way in abating customer disappointment. Meanwhile, the industry must remain hopeful that new visa schemes will be introduced and spark an influx of workers so that F&B businesses can get back to doing what they do best.