McDonald’s supplier halts milkshake mix deliveries as Subway also reports food shortages

Analysts blame lorry driver shortages exacerbated by Brexit and Covid

Tim Wyatt
Tuesday 24 August 2021 19:11 BST
No McDonald’s store in England, Wales or Scotland is selling milkshakes
No McDonald’s store in England, Wales or Scotland is selling milkshakes (Getty Images)
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McDonald’s has been joined by Subway and Wetherspoons in struggling with food supplies to stores, with a shortage of lorry drivers causing the disruption to continue.

Dairy giant Arla says it has been asked to stop sending milkshake mix to McDonald’s, after supply chain issues, blamed on Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, left the fast-food chain left unable to sell any milkshakes.

The milk co-operative said it was also affected, being forced to cancel about 10 per cent of its deliveries to 2,400 stores across Britain.

Sandwich chain Subway has confirmed it, too, is suffering shortages of some fresh produce but insisted any disruption to what could be offered to customers was minimal.

Likewise, Wetherspoon pubs are steeling themselves for shortfalls in supplies, a spokesperson told The Independent.

The milkshake problem first became apparent on Monday when the company stopped selling the drinks, along with many other bottled beverages, in all of its 1,250 restaurants in Great Britain.

Now, a spokesperson for Arla has confirmed McDonald’s asked it to temporarily stop producing its milkshake mix while it worked to fix a range of problems.

“We are working closely with McDonald’s to ensure we support them as they navigate the supply chain issues faced by retailers across the UK,” the spokesperson said. “We are ready to support McDonald’s as soon as milkshakes return to the menu.”

In addition, Arla was itself also affected by the lorry driver shortages, thought to be a result of both the Brexit deal and people self-isolating during the pandemic.

Fruit and vegetables, things we are used to having fresh and getting a couple of days before Christmas, might not be available in the quantities we’re used to

The Cold Chain Federation

“Whilst it is causing some disruption to our supply chain, we have continued to collect milk from our owners and are working closely with our logistics partners and customers to minimise the impact in stores,” the spokesperson added.

“The impact of the driver shortage issue is to our fresh milk deliveries to stores, where, on average we are not able to supply around 10 per cent of the circa 2,400 direct to store deliveries we do each day.”

As well as producing many of its own branded products, Arla is also a major supplier of dairy products to all the UK’s major supermarkets.

A spokesperson for Subway said the firm was having “minor supply-chain shortages relating to some fresh produce” but said the disruption to customers was minimal so far. “We appreciate that supply-chain pressure is something a lot of the industry is experiencing at the moment.”

All Wetherspoon pubs have enough food and drink to stay open and offer full menus, a spokesperson told The Independent, but problems may be on the horizon.

“We are aware of possible shortages on some products and in those cases are working with alternative suppliers,” the spokesperson added.

Last week, Nando’s was forced to temporarily close around 50 restaurants after having chicken shortages.

In an effort to tackle the problem, the government said it was streamlining the process for new drivers to gain a HGV licence and had temporarily relaxed the rules on how long drivers can go before having to take a break.

Arla said the shortage of drivers was a problem in the industry before Brexit and the pandemic, but had been exacerbated significantly. It planned to open a driver academy programme at all five of its depots, using funds from the apprenticeship levy to support and train new drivers.

Tom Southall, of the Cold Chain Federation, said the issue was likely to persist for some time and could disrupt the Christmas trading period.

“Fruit and vegetables, things we are used to having fresh and getting a couple of days before Christmas, might not be available in the quantities we’re used to, particularly the products that can’t be frozen,” he said.

“Larger food chains are having to prioritise some products over others. Companies are having to make very difficult decisions about what they can offer, what they can get through their supply chains and what they can get to their consumers. I think we are going to see that for some time to come.”

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