Brakes has reportedly pulled out of delivering to the fast food sector, leaving many fish and chip shop customers without future orders.
Customers started receiving phone calls this week to say they would not be receiving deliveries after next week.
Christine Johnson, owner of Eastry Fish Bar, has been a long-standing Brakes customer. She received the news on Tuesday that there would be no more deliveries to her fish and chip shop in Sandwich, Kent.
“I had a phone call this week to say Brakes are going to stop dealing with fast food shops from next week," she said. "They told me they will deliver this week and that’s it. It’s terrible because I buy a lot off of them. Their oil has been so much cheaper than anybody else’s so we’ve been getting our oil from them for some time, but we also get our fish, our pies and all our ice creams.
“It’s disappointing, but I’m not surprised. It has been more and more difficult to get deliveries from Brakes for many months. Recently, they increased their minimum order from £100 to £250 and they’ve been going wrong for some time with deliveries being hit and miss.
“I can’t understand how they’ve done it this week when it’s half term and they won’t be delivering to schools!”
Christine was told the reason for her deliveries stopping was so the wholesaler could focus on other sectors of the market.
She added: “We’ve been told it’s because the fish and chip shop orders are heavy in terms of big boxes of cod weighing a lot, and once the weight on the lorry is reached they can’t add any more. But if they deliver to nursing homes, schools and pubs they can get a lot more expensive items that amount to the same weight. It’s a real shame because they’ve tried to increase their fish and chips range for some time and were very competitive with their prices, that’s why we’ve always ordered from them.”
Dominic Wayne Eusden, owner of Fiddlers Elbow in Leintwardine, Herefordshire, has been buying from Brakes for over eight years. He estimates around 90% of his menu comes from Brakes, including its MSC certified fish, all the ingredients for its homemade items as well as its gluten free products. His shop received a delivery today with the final one due Thursday.
Dominic comments: “I phoned Brakes yesterday and they told me they are stopping delivering to fast food shops and it’s because they are getting busier in pubs, restaurants, hospitals and schools. With the driver shortage, they can’t service everyone so the powers that be have decided to drop the takeaway sector full stop.
“I asked if it was a temporary thing and was told they don’t know but they can’t see it happening. Where we are located, we struggle for suppliers, we only get three - Middletons, Smales and Brakes. It’s a big blow to us but it's the short notice that is the biggest blow because now I’m trying to find the stock I was getting at the same quality and price that I was getting from an alternative supplier, if I can get one.”
When contacted by Fry Magazine, Brakes neither denied nor confirmed it was pulling out of the fast food market, instead saying it had decided to "reduce its delivery slots”, citing continuing challenges with labour shortages. It did, however, say it hopes to bring some of those slots back on board once the driver crisis is solved.
The statement reads: “We’re continuing to face challenges with labour shortages, which are affecting the entire food supply chain.
“We’ve been doing everything we can to fix this, from bringing in extra trucks, to investing more in recruitment, and extending colleague shifts to be able to meet the demand, but despite this, with demand now growing in city centres and returning to their pre-Covid levels, customer demand is still above our capacity to deliver.
“As a result, we have removed delivery slots for some of our customers. Having rigorously reviewed all our available delivery routes, we have made this decision based on where the driver shortage is most severe.
"We are currently contacting all affected customers to apologise for the inconvenience that this will inevitably cause.
“We hope that, once the driver crisis is solved, we will be able to offer more delivery slots.”
Brakes has been delivering food and catering supplies to the foodservice industry for more than 60 years from over 20 distribution centres and employs over 6,500 people.