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Marstons reveals it ran out of chicken pies during CO2 shortage

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Chicken pie
Chicken pie

Pub chain Marston's was forced to take chicken pies off its menus last month after carbon dioxide shortages hit the meat industry.

Marston's boss Andrew Andrea said the group had to "switch and substitute a bit with pies," including substituting chicken for beef.

"There were a couple of days where we had an issue with chicken pie supply. We had a bit of a shortage. We didn't run out of pies altogether, but we had to source alternatives and offer people alternatives."

Poultry processors had been particularly hit by the CO2 shortages. The gas is needed to stun birds before they are slaughtered.

Mr Andrea was speaking as the company said it had seen "pockets of disruption" to its supply chain, mostly affecting the food side of the business and processed meat.

"Supply wise at the moment, we're fine, but we are watching it like a hawk and the key thing is to be nimble here."

It comes amid difficulties throughout the food supply chain, with meat prices expected to rise in the festive period, and some tomato and cucumber farmers having already shut down production due to higher energy costs.

Mr Andrea said: "As a sector, pub companies have simplified menus already coming out of the pandemic, and we expect simple menus to remain a permanent feature because I don't think customer demand is there for a vast array of options. It feeds right through from the supply chain right through to what we're asking chefs to do in the kitchen."

Marston's said trading rebounded to surpass pre-pandemic levels in the period from July 25 to October 2, with like-for-like sales at 102pc of 2019's figures.

It mostly runs pubs in suburban areas rather than city centres. More urban locations continue to be quiet as workers stay away from the office.

Marston's has deals in place for its CO2 supply and electricity through to 2023 and March 2022 respectively, which it said meant the "majority of our 2022 costs are now contracted in".

Inflation has, however, been squeezing margins in the sector.

Marston's said it pushed its own prices up by around 10p a drink and 20-30p a dish on food, increasing them further this month when VAT was increased, by around 5-10p a drink and another 20p for a main course.

"You've got to strike that balance because if you're greedy, you'll get found out and customers will just stay at home, and we certainly don't want to encourage that.

"There has been some quite material price taking in the sector and certainly in London, we're seeing some eye-watering prices for a pint of beer."

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