Are the outages of Tesco, Gregg’s, Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s linked? Mystery as high street hit by outages

Much of the UK high street has been hit by huge outages in recent weeks – and the cause of them still remains largely mysterious.

McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Greggs’ have all had to close stores or found themselves unable to deliver orders because of problems with payment systems and other online tools. The coincidence has led to suggestions that the companies could have been victim of a cyber attack, but each of them have made clear that the problems related to a software update.

Each of the companies have however refused to give any detailed information about why the outages happened – or whether they might be linked. None of them provided further information about the underlying issues behind the outages to The Independent.

 (Dave Higgens/PA Wire)
(Dave Higgens/PA Wire)

Greggs’, the most recent of the outages, said that some of its stores had been forced to close because they were unable to take payments. But it said only that it had experienced a “technical issue” and gave no information about what that problem might be.

“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,” a spokesperson said.

 (Lucy North/PA Wire)
(Lucy North/PA Wire)

“We apologise for the inconvenience this may have caused to our customers.”

Over the weekend, Sainsbury’s had been forced to cancel the majority of online orders after a technical problem of its own. It said that the problem was an overnight software update that had left its systems offline, and did not provide further information on what that system might be.

At the same time, Tesco was hit by a smaller problem of its own. It too gave no information about what the technical issue was, or whether it was linked to other problems, including those at Sainsbury’s which happened at roughly the same time.

All of those problems followed an outage at McDonald’s that also left customers unable to buy meals, and with some restaurants forced to close entirely. It too did not give any information about the cause of the outage or whether it was connected to other problems.

Like Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s did however say that its outage was caused by a failed software update. Neither of them named the company responsible for the software and so it is unclear whether it relates to the same update.

Many companies have taken to giving only limited detail about outages to the customers that might affect them. Even devoted technology companies such as Meta often only describe problems as “technical issues” and refuse to give more detailed information on outages.

Despite the four UK high street companies’ refusal to give further information on their outages, technology experts warned that the problems showed that large firms were failing to ensure their IT systems were sufficient resilient – even if they were not linked.

“As the outage at Greggs shows, instead of moving towards greater operational resilience, IT estates are in fact growing more susceptible to outages with longer periods of downtime. The cause of these particular crashes still remains unclear but whatever the cause, the time taken to resume operations is simply unacceptable,” said Guy Warren, chief executive of IT management company ITRS.