According to the NFFF, pubs need to prepare for the future now as the cost of the nation’s favourite dish, according to a recent YouGov survey, is expected to increase further as fuel prices rocket and sanctions and tariffs on Russian products continue amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
NFFF president Andrew Crook said: “All these increases are coming at the worst possible time because everyone's disposable money is drying up.
“Winter is probably going to be a very testing time with fuel bills as expensive as they're going to be, it's about preparing now for that period.”
Furthermore, Crook explained the cost of potatoes could rise even more if farmers were to be met with a bad summer for growing on top of the rising cost of cooking oil.
No signs of relenting
Currently, the cost of sunflower oil in the UK, 50% of which comes from Ukraine, has increased by around 50%, while 40% of the nation’s cod and Haddock comes from Russia, according to the NFFF.
This comes as last month saw the cost of seasonal fruit and veg soar by 37% compared with 2020, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), as well as a warning earlier this week of apocalyptic food price increases from the Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey.
All this has left pubs profit margins shrinking and questioning how much of these cost increases can be passed onto customers who are also feeling squeezed.
The Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, Suffolk, which is number 1 on the Top 50 Gastropubs list, head chef Dave Wall said: “All of our fish is through the roof and the increases are showing no signs of relenting.
“Our brill unit price is now minimum £8 but more commonly closer to £10 just for the fish.
“Then you've got the cost of clams, nearly 75p each, the caviar sauce, and the rest of the garnish, that dish is costing us around £12 most days.
“Because we feel a subliminal ceiling as to what we can charge, we only sell it at £33.
“[Now] VAT [has gone] back up to 20%, that dish will be making around 56% gross profit margin.
“We're supposed to hit 69% in order to have enough money to pay the staff, the bills and the taxes and make a small bit of profit at the end of the day - so every fish sale kills us right now.”
Food availability has also remained an issue for pubs, forcing some to be more “creative” with their food offerings.
Licensee of the Dog at Wingham, Canterbury, Marc Bridgen said: “We’re moving into summer so we’ve [added] fish and chips to the menu, but it's not cod, it's whatever whitefish we can get every day at the best value to keep it as an affordable dish.
“It's a combination of having to pass some of these costs on to the to the guest, but also trying to be more creative in the products and the proteins we source to try and keep the menu prices down.”