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​George’s - where the customer is king

​George’s - where the customer is king

Posted by Emma on 24th Jun 2024

George’s in Bourne, Lincolnshire, is a successful takeaway that turns over an impressive £1million a year with a business model that closes at 8pm and isn’t open on Sundays.

However, the journey to success has not been without challenges. Like many business owners, George Georgiou has faced the need to continually adapt, particularly over the past four to five years. The fallout from Brexit, the war in Ukraine, and the cost-of-living crisis have all presented significant obstacles.

George has switched to frozen at sea fish amidst shortages, price rises and inconsistencies in the quality of fresh, and admits to putting his prices up more times in the last five years than he has in the past 15, with fish and chips increasing 35% from £7 to £11.

New items have been added to the menu as have smaller portions that are easier on the pocket. George has also taken inspiration from retail giants such as Lidl and McDonald’s, offering a special every fortnight - often drawn from his Cypriot heritage.

“This week it is chicken souvlaki and next week it is swordfish,” explains George. “It’s something different so customers come to have a little look, just like they go into Lidl to browse their specials. They work really well especially as people think, well I can’t have fish and chips three times a week, but I can have the special. It’s what McDonald's do: offer a different burger on different days of the week.”

On the subject of burgers, George’s sells anywhere up to 250 homemade burgers a week, which he charges a premium for on the basis that “we’re making something special”. There’s an emphasis here on finger food, a deliberate tactic to appeal to the younger generation who George says can’t be bothered with cutlery and want food that is easy to eat while on their phones or iPads. For the health conscious there is grilled fish and chicken as well as salads, and gluten free Mondays for coeliacs.

It’s a high quality offering that appeals to a broad customer base and it’s one of the reasons why the takeaway is consistently busy. The other is George’s belief that building long-term relationships with customers and offering excellent service can lead to positive word-of-mouth and increased loyalty. This is critical to George's, which relies on the loyalty of local customers returning regularly.

“I don't look at the customer as profit,” he says. “I look at a customer as king. I'll give you an example. When a customer comes in and he's got his young lad with him who is about 10 years old, he might say, ‘I want large chips and large fish’. So I’ll say to him, ‘You know, that’s quite a big portion there, it's enough for three’. And they'll say, ‘Oh, I didn't know that. I'll have a small one then for the little lad’. So what you've done there is you've got less money, but you’ve gained a customer.”

On the same basis George won’t charge for items such as sauces, adding: “I saw it in KFC about 15 years ago, a bloke spent £25 on a bucket of chicken for him and his family. He sat down and realised he needed sauce so he went back to the counter and he was charged 20p. He sat back down with his family and said, ‘What a rip-off, 20p for sauce". He never said anything about the £25 he had just spent on chicken! So I look at it this way, if I sell sachets of sauce I would probably make £10 a week, which is £40 a month. That’s not going to end my business, but it is a prime example where you can put the price of everything up by 5p and give the sauce away. The customer will walk away thinking you are being quite generous, giving them the sauce for free.”

Even if a customer arrives and their preferred order is unavailable, George has been known to adhere to his principles, explaining: “We had a customer come in this week who wanted a chicken and mushroom pie and chips, but we had run out of chicken and mushroom pies. I asked if he wanted something else and he said fish and chips, but I still charged him for pie and chips. The customer came here with a budget of £6. I don't want to make him spend £10, it was our fault that we didn’t have the pie ready. You can’t look at that customer as profit, you look at him as a return customer. We didn't lose money by giving him fish and chips, we may not have made a lot of profit, but we're still gaining a customer.”

Not one for upselling either, George would rather prioritise customer satisfaction over profit margins. He firmly believes in building long-term relationships with customers.

Using quality products, such as those from Ceres, also plays a part in George’s success. “It’s one of the most important things you can do, buy quality ingredients because you are more than halfway there,” adds George.

“We use Ceres Natural Gold Batter Mix because we run very light oil and you need a bit of colour otherwise the fish comes out pale. It gives a batter with great texture and a bit of lift, it just works well for us.”

Using Ceres Curry Sauce, which is naturally gluten free, means George’s can safely cater for coeliac customers on its gluten free Mondays. This approach eliminates the need to stock two separate products. George adds: “It’s got a great flavour and cooks well. You have to cook it for a touch longer than other curry sauce mixes I have used before, but that's an indication that it is going to be better than something instant.”

Another Ceres product that has had a huge impact on the quality of the food at George’s is Pre-Dust Number 2, which contains seasoning, saving both time and effort.

“We used to add the seasoning to the batter ourselves and we could never get it exactly right,” he explains. “When I’m frying cod, which can lack flavour compared to haddock and hake, the white pepper in the pre-dust helps bring the flavour out. The pre-dust also helps stop the moisture from the fish coming through and making the batter soggy. It is now one of our core products and I would never change it.”

Keeping his seven pan Kiremko frying range in prime condition, George uses Ceres Deep Fryer Cleaner every month without fail. “You put it in the pan, it boils, you give it a little bit of a wipe and it's all clean,” he says. “If you use it like the instructions tell you to use it, it works perfectly, there’s no scrubbing, no nothing. It gets rid of all the carbon on the pan and if you get rid of all that, your oil lasts longer and the food tastes better.”

Ordering via the Ceres website and receiving a quick turnaround, George says it’s a service you can’t find anywhere else, adding: “It’s great when you run short of something because Ceres has it with me the next day or the day after. That’s great customer service.”