Perthshire butcher Simon Howie says a lack of staff is affecting his business, despite a rise in profits.
The award-winning butchers sells produce in supermarkets across the country.
The firm has a headcount of about 110 but Mr Howie estimated it is 30 to 40 members of staff down.
The entrepreneur said it is the biggest challenge facing his business.
He said: “Some of our staff went back to eastern Europe and others have moved on.
“There’s always an element of transient staff in the food industry.
“It’s important that when two leave, you can replace them with two or three more.
“That’s just not the case at the moment. It’s giving us something to think about.”
The firm’s boss said the business was taking steps to mitigate the impact on productivity.
That includes mechanising wherever possible.
Mr Howie said: “By the very nature of an artisan food company, there are some things that you just can’t mechanise. You have to be able to be flexible.”
A simple solution, says Simon Howie
He pointed to a “really simple” solution to combat the staffing issue.
Mr Howie said employers needed to be able to access a larger pool of employees.
He said: “There has to be an ability to go to a wider labour pool and bring these people to us for specific jobs.
“The idea that we are a high wage, high skill economy is quite incredible but that’s all we seem to be hearing at the moment.
“On what basis are we any more skilled than they were six months ago?
“We’ve just now got a situation where they are earning more money but the costs they are experiencing in terms of buying food and fuel.
“These extra wages are not delivering anything for them. The pounds we’ve got in our pockets are buying us less.”
Turnover up at Simon Howie Butchers
It comes as the firm reported a rise in turnover of £2.8 million for the year ending December 31 2020.
Turnover rose 17% to £19.2m from £16.4m in 2019.
Newly-filed accounts for Simon Howie Butchers show the firm also made a pre-tax profit of £3.6m.
That is up by more than £1m on the 2019 figure of £2.5m.
Earlier this year, Mr Howie launched a haggis 20 miles above earth to celebrate Burns Night.
He was pleased with the business’ continued growth.
He said: “We went through the first six months of last year not really knowing what was going to happen.
“Our relationships with big retail customers which we have cultured over the past 25 years really helped us weather the difficult times.”
When hospitality businesses were forced to close in March 2020, Mr Howie said the firm lost business from 100 hotels and restaurants.
More than 18 months later, he confirmed the firm will not return to those hotels and restaurants.
He said a “conscious decision” had been made to focus more on the retail arm of the business.
An element of fear during first lockdown
Mr Howie said that the increase from supermarkets during the first lockdown last year was “very significant”.
The businessman – who last year bought back a recycling business he previously sold for £23m – likened the situation to a wartime effort.
“We had customers coming on the phone saying ‘we’ll take all you can make’,” he said.
“They were saying to us ‘what can we do to make sure you’ve got the raw materials’.
“It reminded us what it must have been like for businesses during a wartime situation where there was an element of fear.
“We weren’t sure how it was going to pan out, but people were saying ‘we’re busy, we’re healthy and we’re here, so let’s get on with it’.”