It might feel at the moment that everything is stacked against you. Price increases on core ingredients are coming thick and fast, while problems with product availability are an increasing worry for the months ahead.
Add to this the fact that we are constantly seeing headlines stating how many fish and chip businesses are likely to go under this year or how expensive fish and chips is becoming and, well, it doesn’t make for great reading, does it?
But there are things you can implement to give your business the best chance of surviving and, better than that, still turn a good profit. And it doesn’t have to entail increasing prices. That should be your last port of call. Instead, you ideally need to look at ways to run the business more efficiently to reduce waste and maximise volume and margin.
We have put together a few tips to help fight back, manage inflation and stay upbeat:
GETTING MORE FROM YOUR FISH
Fish is at an all-time high so now is a great time to be creative and with just a little effort you can be making homemade fishcakes in minutes.
Simply cut your fish down to a specific size – grab a set of scales and you can get it down to the exact gram very easily – and utilise all of the perfectly good fish trimmings to make some great homemade fishcakes. Using Ceres Fishcake Mix, you only need 2oz of trimmings to make one fishcake and the profit margin can be in the region of 85%, so there really is no good reason to throw any off-cuts away.
To make the process simple, save up all your fish trimmings until you have enough to make a big batch of fishcakes. Once made, freeze them so they are ready to take out as and when needed
PRUNE YOUR MENU TO INCREASE CASHFLOW
Cash flow is king so if you have stock sitting in the freezer for weeks on end and those products are not vital to your business, the best thing to do is turn that stock to cash as fast as you can then de-list the item and encourage people to buy something else. Freezer space isn’t free and products just sitting there aren’t making you any money.
Take this stance with all your items – anything that doesn’t sell, take off the menu now and prioritise moving to homemade recipes that utilise stock you already have and generate a better profit margin and increase customer retention.
With product availability looking problematic on some items in the months ahead, a smaller, more focused menu could stand you in good stead.
The bigger the menu, the more cash you have tied up.
GIVE YOUR OPENING HOURS A DO-OVER
Now is a good time to review your opening hours. If you’re opening two hours at lunchtime and taking £38 then it’s probably not a good use of your time or money. You could argue you are there anyway preparing for the evening shift in which case be prudent and have a smaller lunchtime menu that allows you to have fewer fryers on. If you would rather have the time off and not pay for staff, utilities and spoiled food then just close and enjoy the time off. But with any changes, make sure you notify customers in advance of your plans.
Word to the wise, customers will build their schedule around your opening times, so if it was quiet or you wanted to close early without enough warning then this could really upset your customer base.
MAINTAINING YOUR CAPITAL EQUIPMENT
It’s becoming more important than ever to look after your equipment and nowhere does this apply more than to your frying range, so build in a regular boil out of your pans at least every three months, more frequently if you are an extremely busy shop. This has three main benefits:
• Cooking oil is expensive so adding fresh oil to dirty pans will be spoiling good quality oil. It would be logical to have a quick boil out to get rid of any impurities first.
• Cleaner metal surfaces and cleaner probes mean that your fryers will be working more efficiently and using less gas to get to core temperature and not to mention faster recovery.
• Regular cleaning will give you longer life from your fryers. If you could get an extra few years from your capital equipment that’s a magnificent saving.
At times like these, you need to evaluate anything that’s a false economy; blunt knives and worn chopping boards are a liability in the business. If you have a sharp knife, your fish cutting yield will be much higher. On top of this, a blunt knife is a danger as you become acclimatised to applying too much pressure and if you slip it could cause some serious damage.
To learn more about having a knife and board why not visit Nella Cutlery.
FILTERING YOUR FRYING MEDIUM
Filtering your oils after each frying session reduces the temperature of the oil and removes a lot of carbon and impurities, which helps to keep your oil in better condition for longer. We recommend filtering twice a day minimum.
If you haven’t got a built-in filtration system then why not learn more about working with an external filtration system to do the job. If you want to know more about oil filtration read our guide here.
PROPER HOMEMADE BRITISH MUSHY PEAS
We’re going to stick our neck out here and say mushy peas are better homemade…all day long! Even as expensive as marrowfat peas are right now, the margins are still incredible. In the past, many operators who have told me they use tinned or prepared mushy peas do so because they don’t sell a lot, but they never considered that the reason they don’t sell a lot might be because they are processed in a factory and lose something. Homemade not only taste better, it will also make you three to four times more profit.
If you think mushy peas are time-consuming to make, think again because you can soak a large batch, freeze them and take out what you need each day to cook. And any leftover peas at the end of the day can be turned into pea fritters, reducing wastage and putting profits in the till!
VAT IS BACK
VAT is back to 20% despite everyone’s best efforts to make it known that this would have a hugely negative impact on the industry.
One simple trick to get used to paying your VAT is to open a separate bank account and siphon off 1/6th of your turnover and save it in there. You will learn not to rely on the VAT money but also you won’t panic when it is due to be passed on. It also doesn’t enter your cash flow so you learn to work without it. If you can set your EPOS to only show you net turnover, if you don’t add the VAT to your turnover you will start to work with the real figures automatically.
Believe it or not, in times like this the way to keep and build loyalty is to be generous where you can be, after all, serving customers is the fastest way to make money. Maybe offer a meal deal where you add in the sides free of charge or built into the meal so it’s better value. Maybe you could have something on the menu that changes once a week that is a bit of a loss leader, think of the ALDI Super 6 offer, which has fruit and veg very well priced, or McDonald’s that has McDonald’s Monday, a coffee loyalty scheme and a saver menu.
WORK WITH SUPPLIERS
We always advocate building a strong relationship with your suppliers, but now that is more important than ever. By keeping in touch with them, you’ll be one step ahead, knowing about any potential price increases or issues with stock availability ahead of time, allowing you to plan accordingly. There’s nothing worse than getting a delivery and finding your sausages have increased by £1 a box without warning or, worst still, you haven’t got any this week because your wholesaler didn’t have them in stock.
And remember, it’s times like these that loyalty pays off so chopping and changing over 10p a case of beans might make you win today, but will it help you over the long period? What about when you need a last-minute delivery? A wholesaler you’ve been with for years is likely to make you a priority, this might not be the case with a new supplier.
Don’t forget customers are having a hard time of it too financially and, for many, coming to you for fish and chips will be a treat so don’t take any customer for granted. Welcome them with a smile and make sure you continue to offer great service right through to when they walk out of the door. Whatever you are feeling, try not to let customers see it, they’ve come to you to get away from things, so make sure it’s a welcoming environment where they can forget about their issues for ten minutes and, ultimately, a place they want to return to. If customers walk out thinking that was great service, you’re winning.