Scotland’s hospitality industry has been served a double whammy, with pubs and bars across the country struggling to get a hold of beer and gas supplies.
After 18 months of lockdowns and pandemic-enforced restrictions, the trade is trying to get back on its feet as society starts to reopen and move back toward a semblance of normality.
But some pubs are reporting beer orders that have fallen short by around 75% amid issues with the supply chain and staff availability.
Further compounding the problem is a shortage of carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas supplies, which many pubs rely on to serve alcohol and carbonated drinks.
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said: “With Scotland’s pubs and bars just taking the first tentative steps towards recovery the last thing this beleaguered industry needs is for more restrictions to be imposed on it.
“The full reopening of the hospitality sector has been hit with two serious issues – a shortage of staff availability and the more recent immediate problems facing the supply chain.
“SLTA members are already reporting delays and cancellations of orders placed with brewers and other supply chain operators and in some instances beer orders that have been delivered fall far short by around 75%.
“In many cases packaged goods are not being delivered and we have reports of pub and bar owners traveling the length of the country to source supplies.”
Wilkinson also said the industry body had received reports about the selective supply of goods by some companies only servicing certain sections of their customer base, as well as the threat of strike action by delivery and warehouse staff.
“Added to our woes is now the concern over CO2 and nitrogen gas supplies, even when we do get beer delivered,” said Wilkinson.
“Reports are coming in that some gas orders have been cancelled on more than one occasion. The last thing this sector needs is more hurdles in place in the race to its recovery.”
Hospitality bosses have just welcomed back guests for the first weekend since the majority of coronavirus restrictions were lifted across Scotland.
Most rules – including on social distancing and limits on the size of social gatherings – were removed from last Monday.
But the industry has been affected by confusion over the new rules, such as on so-called ‘vertical drinking’ and guidance on wearing face masks in nightclubs.
And now, just as pubs and bars are enjoying their greatest freedom since the start of the pandemic, supply chain issues are placing further economic pressures on the sector.
A spokesperson for Heineken said: “Due to the resource issues we continue to face in third party logistics, we have notified our customers that we will not be able to fulfil all orders after having explored every possible option for delivery.
“We continue to work with our partners to resolve the situation, while exploring alternative methods to get our beers and ciders to customers.”
And a spokesperson for Greene King, which owns Belhaven, said: “The issue of labour shortages is widespread and having an impact on the whole industry.
“We are working closely with our distribution partners to find a resolution to continue providing the excellent service we pride ourselves on to our loyal customers.
Meanwhile, GXO, which carries out deliveries for Belhaven, said the “whole sector is faced with a driver shortage”.
A spokesperson said: “Along with our peers, we signed the Road Hauliage Association letter mentioning that one of the ways to cope with the driver shortage would be to place driving on the UK “Occupational Shortage List”, which would enable EU drivers to re-enter the UK, in order to stabilise the UK drivers issue and help the food supply chain.
“What’s true for drivers is also true for warehouse operatives: with the increasing volumes in e-commerce, we expect high demand for the peak season in Q4. Our logistics business will be using this summer to hold a recruitment drive to recruit for over 14,000 posts across the UK.”