Peri-peri chain Nando’s is temporarily closing over 40 restaurants and pausing restaurant delivery entirely as a result of shortages of its key ingredient:
online clout chicken. It’s the highest profile example of a single restaurant chain feeling the impact of Brexit and — to a lesser extent here — Covid-19 on U.K. supply chains to date.
The group just tweeted it out on Tuesday evening, after replying to a series of DMs from bewildered customers who found either their local restaurant closed or delivery unavailable. Nando’s said: “The UK supply chain is having a bit of a ‘mare right now. This is having a knock-on effect with some of our restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales. We are doing everything we can to get the PERi-PERi back where it belongs – on your plates!” The chain’s restaurants hold their chicken in combi ovens before very briefly grilling it to order, with the poultry supplied pre-marinated.
The UK supply chain is having a bit of a ‘mare right now. This is having a knock-on effect with some of our restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales. We are doing everything we can to get the PERi-PERi back where it belongs – on your plates!— Nando's (@NandosUK) August 17, 2021
And while the chain was coy on the exact cause, one of its largest chicken suppliers, Avara, later provided a more frank assessment of the cause, as first reported by Sky News:
Our company is not currently experiencing any significant inconvenience regarding the ‘pingdemic’. Colleague isolations, relative to our size, are low. Our concern is recruitment and filling vacancies when the UK workforce has been severely depleted as a result of Brexit; this is causing stress on UK supply chains in multiple sectors. Labour availability is an issue totally separate to the pandemic, and one which has the potential to affect UK foods manufacturing for a lot longer.
Claiming that labour availability is “totally separate” to the pandemic is somewhat contentious: the deferral of Brexit’s full impact on restaurants and the food industry by COVID-19 has left these businesses in a more vulnerable position than they would have been without the coronavirus crisis, in effect lurching from one crisis to another with little buffer. Chicken and turkey production plants, often staffed by agency workers on low-paid, zero-hour contracts were also frequently afflicted by COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as being frequently reliant on the exploitation of EU migrants.
With Nando’s reportedly set to reopen restaurants by the weekend, other chains will wait and see if they are forced into a similar position.