“Like most retailers, we are currently experiencing some supply chain issues, impacting the availability of a small number of products. Bottled drinks and milkshakes are temporarily unavailable in restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales,” a spokesperson for the fast food giant said in a statement on Tuesday, confirming news first reported by the Independent.
“We apologize for any inconvenience, and thank our customers for their continued patience. We are working hard to return these items to the menu as soon as possible,” the spokesperson added.
The coronavirus pandemic has heaped pressure on food producers and restaurants who have struggled to find enough workers. In recent months, staff shortages were exacerbated by UK rules that require people to isolate if they come into contact with someone who has been infected with the coronavirus.
New rules came into effect last week, meaning that fully vaccinated people in England are no longer legally required to isolate if they come into close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
But other factors mean the problem hasn’t gone away.
A shortage of truck drivers has contributed to supply disruption in Britain. The Road Haulage Association says the United Kingdom is short around 100,000 truck drivers, 20,000 of whom are EU nationals that left the country after Brexit. There’s also a shortage of workers in other parts of the food supply chain.
Ranjit Singh Boparan, founder of 2 Sisters Food Group, said last month that his company has experienced a 15% labor shortage across its workforce of 16,000 due to a “perfect storm” of Brexit, the pandemic and government inaction in the face of a crisis.
“The operating environment has deteriorated so profoundly I can see no other outcome than major food shortages in the UK. Supply of chicken and turkey is under threat,” Boparan said in a statement.
Dairy producers have also been under pressure. Arla, which supplies milk to UK supermarkets, told the BBC in July that the company has been experiencing driver shortages since early April.
Supply chain blockages are harming the broader UK economy.
UK companies experienced a sharp slowdown in output growth in August, according to data published Monday by IHS Markit. Companies reported widespread constraints on business activity due to staff shortages and supply chain issues, with damage being done in both the manufacturing and services sectors.
“Analysis of comments provided by survey respondents suggested that incidences of reduced output due to shortages of staff or materials were fourteen times higher than usual and the largest since the survey began in January 1998,” IHS Markit said.