The past few weeks has seen major back-and-forth debate over whether the breadcrumb-encased, egg-filled foodstuff counts as a “substantial meal”.
In areas under Tier 2 restrictions, including London, hospitality venues can only stay open if they can function as a restaurant, and may only serve alcohol with a substantial meal.
This led to uproar from wet-led venues, and mass confusion about what the term actually means. The scotch egg came to be a defining emblem of the debate, with multiple cabinet ministers pushed time and again to clarify whether or not the scotch egg did or did not count.
After initially contradicting Environment Secretary George Eustice, who said the item “probably would count”, Michael Gove backtracked last week on calling a couple of scotch eggs a “starter”, to say it is “definitely” a substantial meal.
The publicity allocated to the centuries-old item, most often served in pubs, has elevated the scotch egg to new levels in the public consciousness.
Sales of the bar food have spiked, with the Co-op reporting a 26% year-on-year increase, and on Friday UK-wide wholesaler Brakes confirmed to the Standard that it had seen a ten-fold increase in orders as England came out of lockdown, and the scotch egg remained in the news.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Sales were highest as we exited lockdown, as operators were looking at options for serving meals with food.
“Because of the publicity surrounding scotch eggs, we saw particularly huge growth in sales in this area
Luckily, Brakes had “plenty of stock on hand” as they had “stocked up on key lines across the business” in order to help venues “make the most of a shortened Christmas in what’s been a really difficult year for hospitality”.
Pub groups including Marston’s told the Financial Times this week that they are considering newly adding the bar snack to their menus after more customers requested them post-lockdown.
Marston’s CEO Ralph Findlay said that the company, which has an estate of 1,379 pubs nationally, had seen a “spike in demand”.
London pubs are also reporting the demand, with one south London local, The Sun in Carshalton, telling the I paper it sold more than 200 of the delicacy in under a week – calling them a “lifeline”.
It comes after the British Beer & Pub Association revealed that just four in 10 of its members’ pubs re-opened post-lockdown last weekend, with overall sales across UK pubs 84% lower than last year since re-opening. Chief executive Emma McClarkin said:“The tier restrictions that have been unfairly placed on our pubs are killing them.”
Marston’s reported an underlying pre-tax loss of £22 million for the full year to October 3, down from a £95 million profit in the previous year. Revenues dropped 30% to £821 million.
Findlay said that even in pubs now open and operating under Tier 2 restrictions, like-for-like sales are only around 50% of those seen last December due to the loss of events such as Christmas and office parties.