This time last year, many of us had absolutely no idea what 2020 would hold for us. We had a new prime minister in Boris Johnson, and as a nation the biggest hurdle on the horizon seemed to be negotiating a Brexit deal. Rumours started to gather pace about a virus originating in China. Very few people in the UK seemed remotely concerned.
By the end of January, there were worrying signs that the virus was spreading in other parts of the world, though it was March until we started to take it seriously in this country. National lockdown soon followed. It is easy to criticise any government with the benefit of hindsight and clearly there is much that our own government would no doubt change had they had their time over again.
The chancellor stepped up to support businesses with billions of £’s being poured back into the economy, with cash distributed via grants, furlough, government-backed loans, VAT deferments, and much more. Despite the fact the vaccine is now being rolled out it is clear that the hospitality sector is going to need continued support for the coming year if there is to be any chance of limiting the amount of businesses that look likely to fold.
Whilst writing nightclubs have yet to reopen, most pubs remain closed, restaurants that remain open are struggling to trade at a viable level. It is not all doom and gloom though – The Fox, which is a fantastic pub in Crawley (near Winchester), is a great example of a business that continually adapted throughout the changes enforced during the past nine months – In the early days, serving their local community great takeaway food, hosting local market stalls, offering people the opportunity to purchase locally grown and reared food. They became a great example on how to open back as a restaurant in a covid secure way and gained a great following as a result.
I think the Fish & Chip industry will probably remember the day McDonalds announced they were closing temporarily, We knew as an industry there would be implications, but for the most part we all just kept our heads down. But with the McDonalds announcement we all instantly respected that they would have done their homework before closing 1300 outlets. Many Fish & Chip wholesalers closed over lockdown, I know of one wholesaler that luckily was well placed to safely carry on which was well received by the fish & chip shops that didn’t need to / or want to close.
During lockdown many Fish & Chip shops had taken the time to look at risk assessments (lots of help and support regarding this from Paul Goodgame & Wayne Shaw at The Chesterford Group), and in my circle of friends it became clear that delivery only could be not only a viable option but a game changer in terms of many shops getting back into business – Tim & Kelly Barnes at Krispies showed us that a Delivery only format could be successful, and I know of many shops that followed their model very successfully.
Pre lockdown, many were considering accepting credit cards and providing a pre-order service in all its various formats. Post lockdown it is clear that more and more open fish & chip shops in the UK are now fully integrated. Moving into 2021 many operators will now no doubt be evaluating whether to continue with the aggregators or bring the pre-order/delivery options in house.
Looking back it is fair to say that the Fish & Chip takeaway industry, for the most part, has done well, if you’re takeaway only you have been able to carry on trading. Like other restaurants, Fish & Chip restaurants will have struggled with the fact they have had to open and close. Another main reason fish & chip restaurants have generally struggled, is simply because their customers have a great alternative via their takeaway and/or delivery of Fish & Chips.
Despite the fact that fish and chips has generally done well throughout this pandemic, we are a part of the broader hospitality sector, and as such there are a couple of initiatives that would be good for us to support. UKHospitality are pushing the government to appoint a Hospitality Minister to represent the whole industry. There is a petition online that you can sign and show your support. It is also essential that we support the lobbying efforts of UKHospitality by writing to our local MP’s to push them on extending VAT at 5% or at least get them to look at reforming VAT.
The vaccine will obviously instrumental in getting the nation back to normality, from our point of view as soon as the elderly (the grey pound) have had the vaccine, they will hopefully gain the confidence to venture out again, happier days will be here again.
Lockdown for many was a period of reflection, I know I had to keep my mind busy. For me, like many, I spent three weeks in the garden, clearing it out and clearing my head. Once this was done id build up a plan to progress some projects that were always on the back burner, which led the way to launch and test our Deep Fryer Cleaner, on the back of this we also launched our Super Absorbent Cloths and Potato Preparation. The most significant change was launching our online shop to facilitate the two products, we have since added many other lines. Our goal is to make sure that customers can get what they need when they need it, which means working closely with our distributors and then filling any gaps with our online store.
Some fish & chip industry-specific thoughts and updates:
Seafish Awards: Most of you will know that the Seafish Awards have been cancelled for 2021, Nikki Hawkins has retired (we wish her a lovely retirement), hopefully it will return for 2022, and if so, it will be interesting to see if the past format is retained or whether there will be changes going forward.
NFFF Quality Accreditation: As you may have seen on social media, the NFFF have revised the naming and the format. Personally I think this a positive step, the word “award” has always been contentious, and making it an accreditation will make it far clearer for all to understand.
The new format will cost £125 plus VAT (£150) for NFFF members, (limited period) and Non-NFFF members will pay £200 plus VAT (£240).
This is reasonably priced in my view, from what I understand the assessments will be done remotely online, it will be interesting to see how this works. We hope it is a success.
Fry Top 50 Awards: I have been told that the Fry Top 50 Awards are underway as usual, and we should know the winners when team Fry announce the winners by April 2021.
National Fish & Chip Day: This year, National Fish & Chip Day seemed to go smoothly, if not as busy as previous years. Which in my view is acceptable given how the year has been. The amended date for 2020 was September 4th, and next year it has been moved to June 4th 2021 all being well.
A few thoughts that have been discussed within the industry that a later date October would be a better date for NF&CD. In fact the September date received much better comments because the potato quality is better later in the year.
Another point is that many would like to see it become National Fish & Chip Week, this means that all the effort / expense isn’t for one day, which for most is already the busiest day of the week. A whole week of events and fun would have a better return on investment and help shops get behind some more innovative ideas.
Brexit: It is great news that we now have a deal. Obviously we don’t know the full detail or whether or not there will be any implications for our industry, it will of course become clear in the coming weeks. Fingers crossed its good news for us and the country as a whole.
I hope to record a podcast with people who understand Brexit and its implications once we know precisely the situation.
There are so many questions for next year, but we can’t think too far ahead. Hopefully by the spring with the rollout of the vaccine we will be in a much better place to forecast the rest of the year.
You have heard enough from me, but what are your thoughts on the future? What are your biggest concerns, and what do you look forward to the most? Do you have any New Years resolutions for your business? (Let us know on the Ceres Facebook page)
I would like to thank all my customers and friends for another year of support, wishing you all a happy and above all healthy 2021.