Frying with Ambition: How Prices Fish & Chips Reeled in Success

Frying with Ambition: How Prices Fish & Chips Reeled in Success

Posted by Emily on 7th Apr 2024

James Price is a driven, forward-thinking operator who is constantly looking at how he can get more customers through the door of his takeaway, Prices Fish & Chips in Ringwood. He’s had to because when his dad sold their farm and property in 2016 and bought a fish and chip shop, James was handed the keys and told, “If you muck it up or can't do it, I’ll rent it out to someone who knows what they're doing.”

Seven years later, James is still behind the counter and he’s ever-grateful to his dad for the opportunity in business and for giving him the freedom to learn. He adds: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I owe him a lot, which is why he charges me a handsome rent!”

While fish and chips are the takeaway’s bread and butter, accounting for 60% of sales, the menu offers a diverse array of options to cater to varying tastes, from loaded fries and shredded chicken to homemade extra large pea fritters and, its biggest seller, smashed burgers made using locally sourced beef.


“If I wasn't a fish and chip shop I’d be a smashed burger shop. I'm telling you the amount that I sell, I think one round here would do very, very well,” says James who struggled when he first offered them to even buy a burger press.

“If you go on Amazon now you’ve got hundreds of different varieties from loads of different sellers,” he says. “That alone shows the popularity of the product and how much it's grown.”

With James well aware that stereotypically the generation coming in to get fish and chips is the older generation, he sees it as his job to bridge the gap between his age group and those younger.

“They're into burgers, they're into chicken, they're into different products and products that I think have a better margin than fish as well. So if you're not entertaining those kinds of options, then you're a fool. But you can be a busy fool, as we found out because you can be doing too many different customisations and in a busy service that can be a bit much, so it’s important to get that balance right.”

With that in mind, James has looked at how he can innovate while putting as little pressure as possible on his small team of eight. One answer is to collaborate with a local chef on a range of bespoke sauces.

“You know what it’s like when you have a favourite kebab shop or something like that and you might go there specifically for their mint yoghurt sauce,” James explains. “Having our own sauces I think will make a difference in the customer's choice of where they go. It's all those little details that often make a big difference.”


James's passion for his business extends beyond creating new menu options; he actively enjoys the process of delivering those creations to his customers. His hands-on approach is evident not only when he is behind the range, but also in his engagement with customers through social media.

“You’ve got to have fun,” he says. I can't pass comment on what other people think looks good, but I know what I like. And I think if you see people enjoying where their work and what they're doing, it makes me, as a customer, more likely to go in because you feel like the vibe is right and they care about what they're doing. I think it's important to create that look on Instagram, whether or not everyone is in that headspace or not, but I've got a good team here, and they are happy with what they are doing.”

Recognising the importance of fostering a strong connection with the local community where he has deep roots, James leverages the fact that Prices Fish & Chips is a family-run business and integrates this personal touch into his marketing. In an era where large corporate entities can dominate the food-to-go market, James believes this is paramount in making his business stand out and, ultimately, customers choose him over them.

“If I'm posting a photo of me and my kids on Father's Day, customers are going to say, “Yeah, I don't mind spending a few extra quid there because I'm supporting a local man who has his own kids”. We have a Domino's around the corner owned by an international business person who is never there. If customers are going to spend money in that franchise, they are just lining the pockets of someone who has probably only been in his business once or twice in his life. Whereas if you make it known what you are about, that you are part of the community, people will happily get behind you.”

James's approach to marketing is not only innovative but also socially conscious. Instead of capitalising on Valentine's Day with typical price hikes or meal deals for couples, he chose to lower his prices to £1 and donate the proceeds to a local charity. This attracted attention to his business while demonstrating a commitment to giving back to the community.

He comments: “I look back and I reckon I could have charged £2 a meal. I think most people would have paid it but I thought we're only going to grab so much attention with £2. Whereas £1 seems a bit crazy, I know, but the logic was that if I do it that low, I’m going to attract the type of customers that have probably never tried us before. We couldn’t go wrong with that: we’re raising money for charity and we’re getting new people through the door. And if they like us, they'll come back and they might spend £20, so it was a repeat business plan.”

Another of James's philosophies is "if something works, don't change it" which is reflected in his decision to use Ceres Yorkshire Batter Mix for over six years.

“We get a lot of comments about our batter because of its thin coating and spikes,” says James. “I’m not one to change something that works. The batter is great, we make it as thin as we can possibly get away with, and we use really cold water to give some really good spikes. It’s all about them spikes!”

As well as texture it’s the colour that James gets from the Yorkshire batter that hits the right note with him and his customers. “If your batter is too light, it looks anaemic but if it's too dark, it looks like your oil’s knackered. Ceres Yorkshire Batter manages to replicate the perfect golden colour that you want.”

While James makes the batter on Fridays and Saturdays, his staff take over the rest of the time and James ensures everyone knows how to make the batter.

“Batter, I think is one of the fundamentals of all fish and chips shops. It goes on absolutely everything. When staff are learning how to do the batter I tell them that it goes on everything and if you don't do a fabulous job, then the meal is not going to be as fabulous!”