Mitchells & Butlers and Greene King have found that the supply of certain beer brands – namely Birra Moretti on draft – has been “patchy” but it not causing a huge problem yet, attendees of MCA’s The Conversation heard.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that pubs could be facing a shortage of beer after Heineken wrote to its customers to apologise for a lack of supply of Birra Moretti. It said that while it had been “delighted with the speedy return consumers have made to the on-trade, we have been overwhelmed by the unprecedented demand for Birra Morretti over the last week”.

The business said that order levels for brand in particular were exceeding its total 2019 order levels, despite only a third of pubs being open, and it was therefore pausing new orders. It is also understood that supplies of Amstel have also been affected.

Phil Urban, chief executive, Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) told host and MCA’s contributing editor Peter Martin that although there were some issues with supply, it’s not at a “critical” stage yet. Speaking about pub operators overall, he said that in all honesty many operators are likely to have been pleasantly surprised by the sales seen in the first two weeks of outdoor trading, “and that surprise has probably encouraged us to open more sites than we were anticipating a few weeks ago”.

“The supply chain who are probably working on the forecasts we’ve all given are finding there is far more demand,” he added. “We are expecting a fairly rocky two or three weeks, but I’m sure that by the 17 MAY that will have all unfolded.”

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive, Greene King, said that from a brewing perspective, it did not have any issues with supply to its customers, but he said there were some challenges in its pub estate – particularly in the freetrade and some of its tenanted pubs, in terms of a shortage of Moretti in particular. He also said that in some ways shortages are to be expected and he hoped that brewers will be back up to full supplies from 17 May.