Why did Greggs, Sainsburys, Tesco and McDonald's all suffer IT glitches?

Yahoo News spoke to a retail technology expert on whether the glitches were linked.

A Greggs shop at Ludgate hill in London. Greggs stores across the UK have been hit by technical issues preventing them from accepting payments, forcing some to close. Picture date: Wednesday March 20, 2024. (Photo by Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images)
A Greggs shop at Ludgate Hill in London as stores were forced to close by an IT glitch. (Getty Images)

High street pastry chain Greggs became the latest victim of an IT glitch this week, leaving stores unable to take payments with some forced to close or tell customers to order via Uber Eats.

Greggs is the latest big name on British high streets to succumb to IT glitches in recent days, after high-profile incidents involving Sainsbury’s, Tesco and McDonalds.

Greggs has since resolved the issue and says that all stores will be able to take cash and card payments again shortly.

In a statement, a Greggs spokesperson said: “We have now resolved the technical issue that affected tills in some of our shops earlier this morning.

“The majority of shops affected are now able to take card and cash payments again and we expect the issue to be fully resolved shortly.

What happened at Tesco, McDonald's and Sainsbury’s?

Tesco, Mcdonald's and Sainsbury’s have all faced IT glitches that left shoppers unable to buy in recent days.

On Saturday, Sainsbury’s customers were unable to make contactless payments and the company was unable to fulfil online orders.

Sainsbury’s blamed an overnight software update for the problem.

Orders at Tesco were affected by a technical issue on Saturday, with some customers having orders cancelled due to a technical glitch.

A handwritten sign outside a Sainsbury's store in Cobham informing customers of technical issues currently affecting the supermarket chain. Two of the UK's biggest supermarket chains, Tesco and Sainsbury's, were hit with technical issues on Saturday. Picture date: Saturday March 16, 2024. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sainsbury's stores were left unable to take contactless payments (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)

Tesco customers received an email if their order was disrupted, and were refunded, but in-store shopping and app shopping were not affected.

Tesco said: “We are working to fix a technical issue which has meant we have had to cancel some online orders that were due for delivery today. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

Sainsbury’s said: "We can confirm that contactless payments are now back up and running in all stores, alongside all other forms of payment. Our Groceries Online ordering system is working as normal and customers can place an order for delivery any time from tomorrow.

On Friday, McDonald’s restaurants in multiple countries including the UK saw software issues that led to staff being unable to take and process orders.

There were also disruptions in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand which the burger giant blamed on a software issue.

McDonald's Global Chief Information Officer Brian Rice said in a statement on Friday: "Many markets are back online, and the rest are in the process of coming back online. We are closely working with those markets that are still experiencing issues.”

What about Greggs?

Stores in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff were affected by the IT glitch, with some stores putting up ‘Closed’ signs.

Others asked customers to place orders via the Greggs mobile app and then handed food to them or asked customers to order via click-and-collect or Uber Eats.

Greggs has more than 2,450 bakeries across the UK.

The glitch lasted between two and three hours, and at one point saw 1.3% wiped off the bakery chain’s value on the London Stock Exchange.

Are they linked?

The IT glitches are not directly linked, but the problems are similar - with companies having rapidly switched to digital ways of shopping in the wake of the pandemic, says Max Watson, Retail Technology Lead at Mindera.

Watson has led software development including at retailers such as Dunelm, and says that the problems faced by Greggs, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and McDonalds are familiar from upgrading systems at other companies.

Watson says that the issues are probably related to linking together new technology with older ‘legacy’ systems.

Watson told Yahoo News: "This morning Greggs became the fourth major retailer to face a technical issue in the past week, following in the footsteps of the likes of Sainsbury’s and Tesco. The IT outage is the latest example of the challenges retailers face if they fail to sufficiently address legacy issues within their operating and payments systems.

"While the cause of the disruption at Greggs is currently unknown, it highlights the need for a more robust approach to digital transformation from retailers, especially in the payments space.

"With the UK edging towards a more cashless society where card payments are the norm, avoiding this type of disruption should be a key focus of companies when upgrading technological infrastructures, else they risk frustrating and even losing customers."

Retailers need to increase attention on testing during software updates or when adding automated approaches to ordering and supply management.

This will mean that organisations may have to spend more on IT, Watson says.

Watson said: "To avoid losing customer goodwill in what is one of the most competitive markets in the UK, companies must double down on investment in IT infrastructures and adopt more agile processes now to ensure they do not fall victim to similar issues in the future.”

"This is even more important for companies embracing more modern technologies such as AI where many risks and potential pain points remain unknown."

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