Fruit and veg shortages will affect restaurants and takeaways says head of UK Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association
Restaurants and takeaways will be forced to make changes to menus as food shortages persist, warns one industry expert representing Italian eateries.
Jim Winship, director of the UK's Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association, believes changes are 'inevitable' in the days and weeks ahead and customers are likely to face less choice as shortages of fruit and veg, alongside other items such as poultry and eggs, continue.
Supermarkets this week began rationing some fresh items including tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and broccoli, which has involved limiting the amount each customer can buy, as many shelves in fruit and veg sections sit empty.
A combination of poor weather and transport issues in parts of Europe and north Africa have reportedly led to a disrupted harvest which, says the British Retail Consortium, is now leading to problems with supplies destined for the UK.
While British produce is expected to fill some gaps, as crops here come into season and the weather warms up, the crisis is just the latest in a long list of problems, said Mr Winship, that hospitality businesses are desperately trying to overcome.
Closures as a result of Covid-19, large numbers of over 50s retiring since the pandemic, staffing problems connected to Brexit, the ongoing avian flu outbreak which has led to egg and poultry shortages, sky-high energy costs and now salad shortages are taking their toll.
Italian restaurants, which rely heavily on fresh produce and particularly tomatoes for many popular dishes are among those now facing the latest struggle.
Mr Winship explained: "It's been a pretty dire time for restaurants and food outlets from pizza and pasta restaurants to takeaways.
"It's been a catalogue of one thing after another."
While the Association hopes shortages of fresh produce may improve by the end of March it predicts that even when a more abundant supply starts coming through it will prompt further increases in the wholesale price of certain foods.
This inevitably, it fears, will have to filter down to restaurant and takeaway customers as so many companies in the hospitality industry now operate on such tight and fine margins as they attempt to overcome the numerous struggles of the last few years.
Mr Winship added: "It's bound to be fed back to a customer.
"There's no latitude for businesses to absorb costs anymore so it will have to be passed on.
"I wouldn't want to be a food buyer in the current climate it's all very difficult."
UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls confirmed that some eateries, in the same way as supermarkets, are now experiencing disruption to their supplies but that everything possible was being done to overcome the challenges.
She said: "Some hospitality businesses are experiencing intermittent disruption to their fresh produce supply but the sector is managing to navigate through current challenges without widespread shortages. The public can have confidence that there will be a good choice of quality and seasonal fruit and veg when they choose to eat out.
"Hospitality continues to work hard to boost the resilience of its supply chain in order to manage any disruption, including having a multi-source supply and sourcing local where possible."