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Chefs and caterers say flu hasn't affected sales

03 November 2005

Top chefs, restaurateurs and contract caterers have refuted claims that fears over bird flu are scaring customers off chicken.

Last week chef Alexis Gauthier, from one-Michelin-starred Roussillon in Pimlico, London, said he had taken chicken off the menu because the bird flu scare had slashed demand to virtually nothing.

But other caterers and suppliers insisted that demand was unaffected. Gordon Ramsay Holdings, whose seven London restaurants hold a combined seven Michelin stars, said it had noticed no change in demand for poultry.

Fast-food chain KFC and chicken-focused restaurant group Nando's also said they had seen no fall in demand.

"We have not seen an impact on either consumer confidence or our sales in the UK or Europe and have received very few customer enquiries," a spokesperson for KFC said.

A spokeswoman from Nando's agreed. "It makes me very angry that people are trying to drum up publicity around what is a serious issue," she said.

Contract caterers Elior UK and Compass Group and pub group Mitchells & Butlers also confirmed that they had seen no dramatic change in demand for poultry.

Peter Allen, managing director of meat suppliers Aubrey Allen, said: "I think it is a storm in a teacup at the moment. It's pretty much business as usual - our figures for last week are smack on the average."

Allen admitted that consumers were increasingly concerned about poultry, however, saying he was now taking up to 20 enquiries a morning.

"Poultry represents 40% of the meals served in this country so it would be difficult to replace that if the bottom did fall out of the market," he said.

by Angela Frewin

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