Is Brexit behind Nando’s ’mare?

Does a lack of staff have chicken fast-food chains operating on a wing and a prayer?

A branch of Nando’s in White City, Manchester, which has been closed. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

A branch of Nando’s in White City, Manchester, which has been closed. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

 

Nando’s is in the news, and the situation is peri-peri serious. The South African chicken chain has been forced to temporarily close more than 40 of its outlets in Britain. On Twitter it told a customer that “the UK supply chain is having a bit of a ’mare right now”, but declined to say it was thanks to Brexit.

And yet if you’re in Ireland, either the Republic or the North, and mere mention of Nando’s triggers strong cravings for its peri-peri chicken, there shouldn’t be any problem procuring some as its Irish outlets are unaffected by the ’mare.

Nando’s difficulties, meanwhile, follow stock struggles at rival fast-food group KFC, another chicken-reliant chain. What could be causing these chicken issues, if not Brexit?

Much has been made of the staff absences caused by the “pingdemic”, whereby British workers pinged by an NHS app are advised to complete isolation periods after coming into contact with a positive Covid-19 case.

One of the UK’s largest chicken suppliers to supermarkets and restaurants, Avara Foods, has taken a dim view of this. Its company is “not currently experiencing significant inconvenience” as a result of the pingdemic.

“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,” it said.

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.”

Indeed, social media has lately been home to the very 2021 phenomenon of empty shelves where the groceries should be – a problem that has not afflicted Ireland to the same degree, give or take some post-Brexit gaps at Marks & Spencer.

An exodus of European heavy goods vehicle drivers from British shores coupled with a shortage of operators in food processing centres has created an unpalatable labour crunch, and the sight of restaurants shuttering at a time when they actually have government permission to open.

No butterfly chicken burger? Just one more thing that nobody put on the side of a bus.

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