Glasgow’s food and drink industry is part of the fabric of the city, but the cost-of-living crisis is hammering bars and restaurants from all angles.

As part of our Spotlight investigation series, we are shining a light on how the cost crisis is impacting the city’s businesses and what they need to survive.

Jim Rowan, managing director of wholesaler Dunn’s Food and Drinks, shares his industry insights with the Glasgow Times about the struggles facing the trade.

The legacy of the pandemic, lockdown restrictions on hospitality in Glasgow and Brexit have created a shaky ground for many businesses to stand on as energy and food prices soar, the labour pool declines and transport is restricted amid strikes and taxi driver shortages.

READ MORE: Cost of living crisis could force hundreds of Glasgow firms out of business

Glasgow Times:

Jim said: “All these things are having a detrimental effect on our industry.

“It’s not just one thing. We’ve been trying to cope with so many things.”

He added: “We’re slightly punch drunk, on the ropes, but not knocked out.

“We’re a very resilient industry. We constantly pivot and try new things.

“People will be looking at their menus, and they’ll be looking at different offerings for their customers."

People in Glasgow are feeling the squeeze and after the post-covid bounce back many businesses experienced, the custom is gradually drying up.

Jim said: “The trade was really buoyant and we saw that growth right through March.

“Then the knock-on effect of the Ukraine war, of energy, has had, I think, a really detrimental effect on people’s psyche.

“They’re getting frightened into not going out, not putting their heating on, and really looking at how it affects them.”

Jim is optimistic that trade could turn around by the end of this year, but it is not clear if that will continue into January.

“I can’t look into the future and I don’t want to catastrophize, but if business doesn’t grow, then overheads have to be matched with turnover, and the inevitable is that people will start to lose money and make decisions about whether their businesses are viable or not.

“But generally, we have a very strong festive period and with the World Cup, we should see people going out more and more.”

Dunns has worked to make their business more efficient to avoid passing any further increases on to their customers.


Costs have gone up by hundreds of thousands


Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Bakery owner tells how cost of living crisis forced Glasgow cafe closure

Jim said: “We’ve tried to support our customers by making ourselves more competitive, making sure we have enough stock, doing more frequent deliveries so they don’t need to buy as much, and working with them, working hard with them, on menu development and anything else that we can do for them.

“It’s the best we can do.”

The new Energy Bill Relief Scheme has been helpful but energy price increases are staggering.

Jim said: “Some of the customers I’ve been speaking to have seen a four-fold increase in their unit price.

“We alone have had our unit price doubled and we have trucks with big freezers, so our unit cost going up is a substantial amount of money, hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“But some of these guys I’ve been talking to have gone from say, 25p per unit to 75p per unit, which is basically a threefold increase and some of them have fourfold increases in their gas and electricity.”

“If you’re a restaurant, you have to turn your gas and electricity on, you have to turn your lights on.

“So how they’ll manage is they’ll probably have to work on efficiencies, we all will.”

“In restaurants and pubs, to pour a pint of beer, you need coolers, you can’t not do that.

“To serve a bottle of beer you need to serve it cold. You can’t not serve something chilled.”


More restaurants could go vegetarian


Glasgow Times:

READ MORE: Glasgow chippies predict £10 fish suppers as they face battle to stay afloat during cost of living crisis

Bars and restaurants must put certain consumables into the fridge or freezer, which many businesses may not have factored into their running costs before the energy crisis.

Jim suggests many businesses could shift menus away from meat due to the rising costs.

Jim said: “Chicken prices have doubled in the last six months, so have flour, sugar, tomatoes, all the key lines have all gone up huge amounts, more than inflation. Vastly more than inflation.”

Jim suggests that the business rates for hospitality need to be addressed.

He said: “I think that’s been a war cry from many of the bodies, the rates and the rents have been particularly high versus businesses like the supermarkets, for example, which I think have a better rateable value than a pub and they can’t compete.

“The independent pub or restaurant, in Glasgow, is what keeps it vibrant because people come into trade and try new things.

“The independents need to be supported and the best way to do that is to get out there and support your local businesses.”