The donut theory

I can’t even buy a donut! The slow failure of our system or just another… ‘glitch?’

The donut theory

A serious problem or a technical glitch? I call it the donut theory – where everything is perceived as good until… but it isn’t – when you can’t even buy a donut!

Recent issues highlight a growing problem

Due to a payment acceptance issue, the bakery chain Greggs has closed some of its outlets. Patrons encountered certain branches that were either shut or only accepted cash.

This incident comes after card payment systems failed at Sainsbury’s and Tesco on Saturday 16th March 2024, and at McDonald’s on Friday 15th March 2024, and at many other outlets over recent months. Instore shopping and home deliveries were all affected.


The recent system failures experienced by major UK retailers like Sainsbury’sTesco, and even McDonald’s have indeed raised concerns. While these incidents may seem isolated, they highlight broader issues related to technology infrastructure, reliance on digital systems, and the impact of such failures on businesses and consumers.

Potential implications and issues with system failures. We are so dependent on the ‘system’.

Dependency on Technology

Modern businesses heavily rely on technology for operations, from inventory management to payment processing. When systems fail, it disrupts daily operations, affecting customer satisfaction and revenue.

The recent incidents underscore the need for robust backup systems, redundancy, and thorough testing of software updates.

Customer Experience and Trust

System outages can frustrate customers who rely on these services. Delays in grocery deliveries or inability to pay via contactless methods can lead to dissatisfaction.

Trust in a brand can erode if such incidents occur frequently. Customers may seek alternatives or lose confidence in the retailer’s ability to provide reliable services.

Financial Impact

System failures can result in financial losses due to missed sales, refunds, and operational disruptions.

Companies invest significant resources in maintaining and upgrading their technology infrastructure. Failures can be costly both in terms of immediate losses and long-term reputation damage.

Cybersecurity Concerns

System glitches may raise questions about cybersecurity. While not all incidents are related to security breaches, any disruption can make consumers wary.

Retailers must continuously assess and enhance their security measures to protect customer data and prevent unauthorized access.

Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

Supermarkets are part of complex supply chains. System failures can impact suppliers, logistics, and distribution networks.

Ensuring resilience across the entire supply chain is crucial to prevent cascading effects.

Regulatory Compliance

Retailers must comply with regulations related to data protection, payment processing, and consumer rights. System failures could lead to legal and regulatory challenges.

Recent Cyberattacks and System Failures in the UK

Hack attack!
Cyberattacks will all have malicious intent, such as accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information; extorting money from users via ransomware; or interrupting normal business processes.

The digital age has brought unprecedented convenience and efficiency to our lives. However, it has also introduced new challenges, particularly in the realm of cybersecurity and system reliability. In the UK, several high-profile incidents have underscored these challenges. Here are ten recent serious cyberattacks and system failures that have occurred since 2022.

System Failures

  • NHS IT Failures: In December 2023, the Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSSIB) reported that IT failures in the NHS have resulted in patient harm and even deaths. Urgent action is needed to address these issues.
  • Failing IT Infrastructure in the NHS: A report highlighted that the failing IT infrastructure is undermining safe healthcare in the NHS.
  • Failed Government IT Project: A failed government IT project to upgrade NHS computer systems in England ended up becoming one of the ‘worst and most expensive contracting fiascos’ in public sector history.
  • Abandoned NHS Patient Record System: In September 2013, an NHS patient record system, which would have been the world’s largest non-military IT system, was abandoned. The failed centralised e-record system cost the taxpayer over £10 billion.


  • Ransomware Attack on NHS: A ransomware attack on a software supplier hit the NHS across the UK, and there were fears that patient data may have been the target.
  • Ransomware Attack on Greater Manchester Police: The Greater Manchester police force fell victim to a ransomware hack, exposing details of officers’ name badges such as ranks, photos, and serial numbers.
  • Ransomware Attack on Royal Mail: The Royal Mail was affected by a ransomware attack.
  • Ransomware Attack on Capita: Outsourcing firm Capita was hit by a ransomware attack.
  • Ransomware Attack on Barts Health NHS Trust: The Barts Health NHS trust was affected by a ransomware attack.
  • Ransomware Attack on Redcar and Cleveland Council: In 2020, Redcar and Cleveland council fell victim to a ransomware attack and was locked out of its systems for almost three weeks.
  • Cyber-Attack on UK VoIP Providers: An ‘unprecedented’ and coordinated cyber-attack struck multiple UK-based providers of voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services.
  • Hackney Borough Council Cyber-Attack: Hackney Borough Council was hit by a cyber-attack which led to significant disruption to services and IT systems.
  • Exchange Email Hack: In March 2021, hundreds of UK companies were compromised as part of a global campaign linked to Chinese hackers.
  • Hacking of 23andMe Profiles: In December 2023, there was a hack of 6.9 million profiles at genetic test firm 23andMe.
  • Customer Hacking: In November 2023, hackers increased attacks on customers

And there have been many more. Whatever the reason; system failures or cyberattacks – the UK needs to seriously update and improve its resources and defences or suffer the serious consequences.

These incidents serve as a stark reminder of the importance of robust cybersecurity measures and reliable IT systems. As we continue to rely more heavily on digital systems, it is crucial that we learn from these incidents and take the necessary steps to prevent similar occurrences in the future.


In summary, while individual incidents may not indicate a systemic crisis, they serve as reminders for businesses and local authorities to invest in robust technology, disaster recovery plans, and proactive risk management. As technology continues to evolve, addressing these challenges becomes even more critical.

When you can’t buy a donut…?

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