Ketchup crisis: City eateries can't source key ingredients

Three establishments in the city centre have spoken about their staffing and supply issues

Three establishments in the city centre have spoken about their staffing and supply issues - Credit: Archant

Food bosses are grappling with a "nightmare" scenario of supply and staff shortages, warning that they "can't cope".  

Restaurants, cafes, and food shops across the city centre are running out of key stock - and some can't even find the staff to open the doors. 

Samia King is the owner of the Moorish Falafel Bar in the Norwich Lanes, which she was forced to close for ten days this summer because of staff issues. 

Samia King, owner of Moorish Falafel Bar. Picture: Neil Perry

Samia King, owner of Moorish Falafel Bar. Picture: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

She said: "It's a nightmare - I've never had as many staff on the books as I do at the moment because we just can't cope. It's a busy time of year, and demand seems to be higher, but also if one person on the team gets Covid then everybody has to isolate. It can wipe out half the team."

She added that the 'pingdemic' was also impacting her suppliers: "One of the suppliers we've been using for years couldn't get a delivery last week because they had no drivers.

Moorish Falafel Bar, Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: Neil Perry

Moorish Falafel Bar, Lower Goat Lane, Norwich. Picture: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant


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"I'm also seeing packaging and ingredients shortages because so many businesses are now doing takeaways and are also using vegan products, even if they're not a vegan place. 

"Every morning is this mad dash to call all of our suppliers and try to source what we need, because often the products that we've carried for years are sold out and our suppliers just can't keep up." 

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Just down the road at the Grosvenor Fish Bar co-owner Christian Motta said takeaway boxes were hard to source. 

Co-owner Christian Motta with fish and chips from Grosvenor Fish Bar. Pic: Archant

Co-owner Christian Motta with fish and chips from Grosvenor Fish Bar. Pic: Archant - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

He said: "I think it's because so many people are after them at the moment - all packaging is pretty hard to find so we're having to ring round all of our suppliers."

He added that some ingredients - seemingly at random - are harder to get. 

"Ketchup is really difficult to find at the moment - and it's expensive when you do. It's meant I'm having to buy stuff online from supermarkets instead of from wholesalers which is obviously more expensive," he said. 

"Condiments in general are quite difficult to get hold of. Potatoes are alright for chips, but haddock can be a bit of a pain.

"We don't really know why our suppliers are struggling. I think it's a perfect storm of the fallout from the pandemic, the driver shortage and Brexit issues.

"At the moment we can deal with it - but I really, really hope it doesn't get any worse or places will have to start looking at reduced menus." 

Elsewhere in the city frozen food shop Iceland and Poundland reported products missing from deliveries. 

This week the Co-Op and Subway have also warned over shortages. 

Nando's was forced to shut of a chicken shortage which also impacted rival KFC, and McDonald's also ran out of milkshakes. 

Norwich Chambers of Commerce said there were “multiple reasons” why the food shortages had occurred, but there was “not a sufficient volume of members” raising the shortages as a significant issue to warrant any action.

Chris Smith is the owner of Christophe's Crepes, which has a trailer and shop in Norwich. 

Chris Smith of Christoph's Crepes in the Norwich Lanes. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Chris Smith of Christoph's Crepes in the Norwich Lanes - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

He said that supply-wise he has been fairly lucky and that raspberries had been the only item hard to track down. 

But it was staffing the sites which had been the real issue. 

He said: "There have been some days when we couldn't open the trailer just because we didn't have enough people. 

"We have a lot of younger people who work for us who might have gone out to watch the football, or to go to events like Latitude. They might get pinged on a week day and it's too late for us to come up with a new schedule for the weekend. It has been a bit of a nightmare.

"What's a bit destroying for me is that people sometimes get grumpy when we tell them the food is a 20 minute wait. We can't really put a sign on the door saying we're short staffed. 

"We do find when we explain it people are really understanding - so we just make a point of telling everyone."

Which businesses have reported ingredients in short supply? 

Greggs: Bakery chain Greggs warned this week that it was struggling to get hold of chicken, prompting fears over its chicken bakes. 

The manager of one branch said it was also facing issues with steak bakes and vegan sausage rolls.

Tesco: Boss of the supermarket chain John Allan said this week that driver shortages could impact the business up until Christmas. 

He said: "At the moment we're running very hard just to keep on top of the existing demand and there isn't the capacity to build stocks that we'd like to see. So, in that sense, I think there may be some shortages at Christmas."

Iceland: Iceland boss Richard Walker also said he was nervous about stockpiling for the festive season, saying: "The reason for sounding the alarm now is that we've already had one Christmas cancelled at the last minute. I'd hate this one to be problematic as well."

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