Zohaib Hussain spared no effort in renovating his takeaway, Zero Plus Fish Bar in Cardiff, earlier this year, with the intention of boosting business.
With a desire to have a shop he could take pride in and one that met the elevated expectations of contemporary food establishments, this previously modest and outdated takeaway has been transformed into a sleek and contemporary space.
By expanding into the adjacent shop, Zero Plus now benefits from comfortable cafe-style seating for 48 customers, an addition that has the desired outcome, with Zohaib reporting a consistent increase in trade month-on-month.
"We offer sit-in now so we're getting a lot more families coming in," he says. "On Friday and Saturday nights, it turns into a little bit of a McDonald's because we get loads of groups of kids coming in and hanging out. We let them bring their bikes in so the whole group can come in and they all spend about £6 to £7 on burger meals."
Zohaib had a strong interest in incorporating technology into his business operations to improve efficiency. He quickly recognised two specific tools that would greatly benefit both his employees and customers.
"Instead of increasing our staff, we have focused on technology," says Zohaib. "The two main ones being a self-service screen so we're not always serving customers, and a dishwasher so there's not as many of us pot washing. It means at the end of the night we are saving money and we're saving money when the customers come through the door. So it's a win-win."
It's not just the physical changes that have helped bolster trade, but Zohaib's ability to adapt the business to changing consumer behaviour by offering more luxury products and having the confidence to charge a higher price point.
"Our area is becoming more affluent, we're getting more trendy coffee bars, and people are spending a little bit more money," he says. "So we felt we wanted to offer something a little bit different in terms of the menu.
"There are six fish and chip shops on our road and we thought if one of them is going to branch out and be the luxury fish and chip shop, it might as well be us. So we've tried to target that market and become a little bit more luxury."
One of the premium items that is driving sales is the shop's homemade fishcakes. Made using Ceres Fishcake Mix and offcuts of fish, they deliver on the high price point Zohaib wanted to achieve, while also being packed full of flavour and offering something unique.
"We do a chilli and lime spicy fishcake. It's not that much of an elevated cost, we probably add about an extra 20p per portion, but we charge an extra £1. The Fishcake Mix is so high margin and easy to use."
Its spicy mayonnaise, quickly whipped up in-house by adding Ceres Louisiana Seasoning to traditional mayonnaise, is equally popular.
"It's probably 90% gross margin," says Zohaib. "The youngsters love the spicy mayonnaise and it's something that other shops on our street don't do so it's one of those standout points. It's like our fishcakes, if customers want them they have to come to us because no other fish and chips shop near us does them. It's not a product you can buy in the cash and carry and just fry, which is what we used to do. We've known that market, we want to be slightly more exclusive."
Using the same batter ever since Zohaib's family first opened the business 32 years ago, the renovations to the shop have signalled a switch to Ceres Natural Gold Batter Mix.
"Sometimes you have to take a shot in the dark and just say, right, this is what I think my customers are going to like," says Zohaib. "And it's worked. We're getting more customers through the door and the feedback on the batter has been amazing. It brings out the flavour of the fish because it's all natural ingredients.
"That was another thing, we wanted to branch out into more natural products. A lot of Ceres products are allergen free which makes them so much easier when it comes to our food matrix."
Although Zohaib purchases the main bulk of his ingredients through his wholesaler, he utilises the Ceres Online Store for any last-minute items as well as a source of inspiration, adding: "Ceres is great at delivering high margin, easy to use products with great flavours but they've also got some great recipes online. I'm always looking at them and thinking what can I bring out? And because they sell the products online, it's so easy just to navigate over and buy those products."
Last but not least, Zohaib says, "It goes without saying that working with Ceres is so easy; they have thought of the big things but also all the important smaller bits like labelling solutions, batter bottles, viscosity flow cups and scrapers to help me keep my range in tip-top condition."
In this dynamic environment, it's clear that the industry is embracing new challenges and opportunities. We invite you to share your thoughts on this evolving trend in the comments section below.