Pubs face food-price woe

By Lesley Foottit

- Last updated on GMT

Lamb: prices set to rise
Lamb: prices set to rise

Related tags: Food standards agency, England, The restaurant group

Margins on non-drink offerings in pubs will take another hit this year as food and beverage cost inflation remains high.

The Restaurant Group (TRG), which owns pub group Brunning & Price, saw average price increases of more than 3% last year and chief executive Andrew Page is expecting the rate of inflation to be similar this year.

The recent Schmallenberg virus outbreak, which causes still-birth and deformities in lambs, is expected to further push up the price of the meat through shortages.

Lamb prices have already risen by 16% in the year to January, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Buying specialist Lynx Purchasing anticipates a shortfall in supply followed by hiked prices that could price pub chefs out of the lamb market this spring.
Imported lamb will also be hit by the outbreak, which started in Germany and has been reported in France and the Netherlands.

“The arrival of the virus in the UK will have an impact on the foodservice sector,” said Lynx managing director John Pinder.

“Lamb prices are already rising at very high levels, and will inevitably rise further due to the shortage of new spring lamb caused by the virus. That will push the price beyond the point where many operators can afford to offer lamb, simply because their customers won’t be prepared to pay the higher prices that will have to be charged.”

EBLEX trade team marketing manager Mike Whittemore said: “It is too early to determine whether the Schmallenberg virus will have a significant impact on supply and therefore prices. We would encourage chefs to speak with their supplier regarding availability.”

More than 80 farms in the south of England have reported cases of the virus, which is thought to be spread by midges. The Food Standards Agency and European Commission have confirmed the virus cannot be transmitted to humans through meat or dairy products.

Food prices look set to rise and drought warnings are in place across much of the Midlands and south of England. Vegetable yields will be lower and prices higher in areas hit by water shortages.

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