Woman handing coffee in takeaway cup to person

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Bakers in Scotland have reacted with dismay at the Scottish Government’s plan to ease lockdown which will prevent those offering takeaways from reopening until 26 April.

Alasdair Smith, chief executive of trade body Scottish Bakers, described the move as a “bitter blow” to members who heavily rely on offering these services for much of their trade.

Even more so as the lockdown easing plan laid out by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon allows for non-essential click and collect services, and hairdressers and garden centres, to reopen from 5 April.

As such, Scottish Bakers is calling on the government to reverse this decision and help ‘breathe life back into the whole highstreets’ on 5 April to allow food-to-go retailers to begin trading again.

It comes just after Greggs reported higher losses in Scotland as its shops have been closed to walk-in customers for most of the year to date.

“The news that takeaway restrictions are not due to end until 26 April is a bitter blow to those of our members who depend heavily on their food-to-go offers for much of their trade, and as our latest research shows, bakers are continuing to struggle under the current conditions,” said Smith.

“Our members all run Covid-safe retail operations and they are just as easily able to serve customers quickly and safely with their breakfast or lunch on the go as they are their retail bakery customers. And as the economy slowly emerges from this latest lockdown, there will be more people in circulation looking for a quick, tasty snack to keep them going.”

Andre Sarafilovic, MD of Stephens Bakery and Scottish Bakers board member, operates a chain of 13 shops – eight of which remain closed as the takeaway restrictions make it uneconomical to trade.

More than half of our own stores are closed and those that remain open are easily 30% below where they could be if this restriction were lifted,” he said.

“Bakers have been unfairly caught by this policy and it is not just hitting our sales but costing the government through furlough when, in our case, we could welcome a return to work of around 100 staff if restrictions were eased.”

Bayne’s the Family Bakers is similarly affected. Joint managing director John Bayne said he needed the restrictions to end “as soon as possible”.

“We have 60 staff still in furlough with four shops closed out of 59. More worryingly, we have experienced a 30% drop in revenues across our remaining open shops.”

Survey results

Scottish Bakers conducted a survey of its members in late February to establish the impact of the pandemic on their businesses and the whole sector.

The trade association’s members employ 12,000 people across the country in high street bakeries and cafes as well as wholesalers supplying the hospitality sector.

It found that the nation’s bakers have been hit hard despite its vital role in preparing fresh bread and bakery products to communities:

  • Around two thirds of bakery firms supplying the hospitality sector have seen at least a 50% drop in sales compared to the same period before the pandemic
  • Nearly half of high street bakeries report similar falls in sales
  • Almost three quarters of cafes operated by bakers are currently closed completely.

A significant proportion of high street premises are now operating at a loss, it added, and one third fear they may never open again. What’re more, one in 10 bakery businesses have already closed and almost half have had to make redundancies.