Fish and chip shops tend to be family businesses with premises above the shop, but that doesn't mean you have to be older or married to run one. In fact, with increased opening hours and higher standards, you'll need the energy to put a lot of hard work into the business. Nor do you need to have a background in the fish and chip or even catering industry. John Allport's business Allport's Fish and Chip shop in Pwllheli was named 2001 fish and chip shop of the year, and he maintains it's commitment rather than experience which drives success.
"If you haven't got experience of the business, you haven't had a chance to get into bad habits. It's really good to be able to bring a fresh approach to this business so you can produce a consistently tempting and competitive product," he says. Joyce Willoughby put this theory into practice when she and her husband Charlie started up Charlie's Fish and Chip Shop in Amble, Northumberland. "We started up without any experience or help but by trial and error we put together a business based not on traditional grounds but on the importance of good, trained staff.
Now we've won national training awards and are Investors in People, which has stood the business in very good stead," she says. The opening hours of the chip shop have extended over the past few years. Whereas shops used to open for a couple of hours at lunchtime, for five hours in the evening and have two days off a week, now many are open all day every day. It is here good help is important but you could personally be working 50 to 60 hours a week. How to start Location As with any business, there are rules dictating the location of a fish and chip shop.
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Even if you are taking over existing premises, these are still things you should look at - could there be some clue as to why the previous occupant moved on? "You need chimney pots, people living all around," says David Beedle. "If you have a city centre location, you'll get some lunchtime trade but then not much until the pub and club trade late evening. A residential area is best because you get the repeat domestic and factory business. " Competition Being in a residential area will also cut down on your immediate competition, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be aware of that it is up to.
You need to look at what your competitors are doing in terms of products and hours. In terms of quality of product, you don't need to be in the same league as McDonalds and so on, but look at what they do well, such as consistency, and learn from that. Promotion There is no industry wide brand so this is not something that fish and chip shops are known for - although the NFFF and Seafish work to raise the sector's profile generally. And individuals are starting to change this too. A good start is to fight the image of fish and chips being unhealthy.
"If fish is fried at the right temperature, it shouldn't be soggy or greasy," explains David Beedle. "The trick is to make sure the batter encases the fish fully so it steams inside the pocket not touching the fat at all. " The most obvious routes are Yellow Pages listings, as well as local good food guides. It's also a good idea to place leaflets in local tourist information or guesthouses if you are situated in a tourist area. Image The best promotion for your business is the overall design and image you project.
Again, this goes back to the Cleanliness of your shop, so you should make sure you have bright, inviting di?? cor. It should also extend to you and your staff. Make sure staff are smart with uniforms or matching aprons and they are pleasant and helpful at all times. "I teach my staff the importance of good body language," says Joyce Willoughby. "Eye contact is very important. " Word of mouth Recommendations from family and friends is as always the best advertising - it works, and best of all, it's free. How much can you earn?
An Inland Revenue estimate of the fish and chip industry states that you might expect gross profits of around 50% - where some achieve more, others less. This comes down to economic preparation, effective portion control and reasonable pricing. All of which you can get advice on from trade organisations like the NFFF. Other factors like the standard of the premises and image you project is up to you. Promoting your business beyond a bright and welcoming shop is something several of the people we spoke to were doing.
Loyalty schemes, buy one get one free and sponsorship of local sports teams or events can all get you better known and build up your business. Daring to flout the traditionalists still mourning the loss of newspaper wrapping, some businesses have addressed the soggy effect of paper wrapping by introducing cardboard boxes. Beedle says consumers who were originally dubious about the idea have been so impressed by the improvement in freshness and temperature, they've come back for more. Ultimately, the quality of the product is the number one factor in how much you will earn.
If it's good, people will not only come back to you but they will travel out of their way, past other shops to come to yours. And they will tell their friends about you - incidentally something they'll also do if the product is bad, with the obvious opposite effect. Communicate with your customers, make them feel their custom is wanted, tell them how good your fish and chips are, then prove it by delivering a delicious product. Achieve this and you're sure to be the major plaice for takeaway for miles around.
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