At a difficult time for fish and chip shops, when potato prices seem to be going up by the day and fish prices are rocketing too, it was reassuring to see so many visitors to the NAEC in Coventry looking at ways to boost their business. Fish and potatoes are no longer cheap commodities, so searching out ways to add value to current items and push up profit margins, or finding new areas to diversify into in order to perhaps become less reliant on purely fish and chips, seemed top of most people’s minds.
This was certainly the case for Theo Ellinas, owner of Winyates Chippy and Golden Carp, both in Redditch, who remarked: “The main thing on every operator’s mind is portion control due to the price of potatoes, so it was interesting to hear other operators comments and what actions they are taking to combat this. Some are putting the price of a portion of chips up and some are reducing their portion sizes and notifying customers of this change. It’s a tricky one because in some areas you cannot put prices up just like that. It was great to come here and see what new products are available.”
Jay Soames, owner of Tasty Plaice, Bedford, came looking for desserts among other things. Setting eyes on Central Foods’ apple pie, which is cooked in the fryer, and its donuts, which can be warmed through in the hot box, he may have found a solution straight away. “We currently only do ice cream like Ben and Jerry’s and Haagen Daz but we’re looking for something simple, like the apple pie and maybe the donuts,” he explained. “Something a little bit different, nothing over extravagant but something that’s an impulse purchase and creates an extra sale. These look interesting.”
Enabling shops to offer add-ons such as pizza, pies, breaded chicken and even grilled fish without expensive setup costs or requiring any extra staff, the Merrychef ovens from The High Speed Oven Company were a real pull. MD Will Robinson commented: “Fifteen years ago, when pizza ovens were really big, shops just didn’t have the room, now the ovens are only 12 inches wide, work off a 13amp plug, are simple to use and half the price they used to be, so they’re more affordable.”
As well as cooking pizzas in two minutes, this piece of kit can do pies in 1 minute 20, grilled fish in three minutes and burgers in two. It can even cook breaded items, such as chicken goujons, which saves oil from being tainted with breadcrumbs and produces a product with just 11% fat compared to 40% when fried.
It was the pies where these ovens were really coming into their own, however, and Will had some valuable advice to help push sales: “With the Merrychef you have the speed of a microwave but the finish of an oven so it gives people a much better product. I normally say to friers put one of each pie flavour in your display and almost write those off. Then, rather than microwave a pie and give an average product, you can have these ready from chilled in one minute 20 so you’re always giving that best product really quickly.”
You couldn’t avoid the buzz from the Kerry Foodservice stand either where its loaded chips concept generated immediate interest. Fronted by a new cheese sauce – which simply requires defrosting and heating in a bain marie – and with a new korma sauce and gravy to boot, they provide a base to a variety of loaded chips options.
Alan Pearce, field sales manager, commented: “We’re becoming a grazing nation and a snacking nation, and loaded chips falls in between that snack and a main meal and can be eaten on the hoof. Shops were really keen to embrace the cheese sauce as it’s not only something new, but it’s also so easy to use and it produces a better tasting, better looking, better performing product than just chucking on a grated pizza cheese that after a while sets and goes like rubber. Shops could see the value it adds and that this kind of product will attract the millennials and generation X, those young people that we want, and need, to get in.”
Another highlight was Sam’s Natural Kitchen with its mushy peas in a pouch. Working out at around 20p per portion, it’s not the cheapest option but visitors seemed impressed with this new, hassle-free take on a fish and chip shop staple – just defrost overnight and heat in a bain marie the next morning – as well as the homemade taste. Co-founder Sam Kourouyianni commented: “Everyone’s been trying the peas and really liking them, not just because of how easy they are to serve but because they are a natural product and they taste just like you’ve made them yourself. They are really healthy and they only have four ingredients – cornish sea salt, filtered water, marrowfat peas and spirulina.”
With the industry keen to find gluten free products that deliver on both taste and quality, there was plenty of interest in Central Foods’ new sausage and chicken kievs, chunks and goujons. Though the chicken products were all top quality, it was the sausage that stole the show with visitors unable to tell the difference between it and a gluten-containing counterpart.
It certainly gave Paul Horwood, owner of the Village Chippy in Chalfont Saint Giles, Buckinghamshire, food for thought who, after tasting the gluten free sausage said: “I’m not doing gluten free at the moment as we only get two or three people a week asking for it, but with these products it’s something I might look into as they do taste very nice. I could do it on a Tuesday because that’s the day I change my oil and, if it does pick up, then I could think about possibly changing over.”
For shops looking to enter the world of online ordering, the show certainly didn’t disappoint with suppliers.
With not all shops ready to take the leap to delivery, Preoday was inundated with questions about its order-ahead technology which bridges the gap by enabling shops to introduce a click and collect service. CEO Nick Hucker commented: “Throughout the day, a number of questions were repeated by the shops we spoke to. How long does the setup take? One month which includes a marketing build-up was taken as a sensible approach. Is there a per-transaction fee? No, and no set-up costs either, just a small monthly subscription cost. Does this replace delivery? No, click and collect is a natural extension of the fish and chip shop experience – delivery can be arranged but isn’t a necessity for most.
“It appears that a reduction in queue sizes, improved productivity and an easy avenue for additional revenue would be very welcomed by all, as would the ability to retain control over platform appearance, management and operations. Quite rightly, no-one wants the in-store experience of customers to be damaged.”
For the first time in many years, all the major range manufacturers were present with Martyn Edwards Frank Ford, Hewigo, Florigo, Henry Nuttall, and Hopkins all taking along ranges for visitors to look around. While ME-FF demonstrated the depths of its creativity with an eye-catching colour changing LED lit panel on its four pan, one chip box Omega range, Hopkins showed off its restyled front and hot boxes while reassuring customers concerned about pan life with a new extended seven-year pan warranty.
And while KFE didn’t have a range, it did showcase its latest high efficiency flat bottom chip pan, which at 94% claims to be the highest efficiency pan on the market; something that interested lots of visitors on the stand who learned about the potential savings on gas and oil. Its Fado unit, capable of producing 15 portions of chips in seven minutes, also caught the eye of those wanting a backup pan and also those looking to expand into the gluten free market.
By the time the doors closed to visitors at the end of the day, many suppliers had run clean out of products. AG Barr, which was showcasing its brand new Rubicon Street Drinks range, was out of stock by 3pm, leaving the team overwhelmed by the phenomenal response.
With the show deemed a huge success, Lauren Kellaway, a Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year finalist and frier at Kellaways Fish & Chips in Truro, Cornwall, summed up the day when she did a guest appearance and lent a hand on the Kerry Foodservice stand. She remarked: “In stages, and especially during the two hour period over lunchtime, it was non-stop and comparable to a busy Friday night in my takeaway!”