A lot has changed since Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF), took part in our podcast almost a year ago to this very day.
The organisation has improved its engagement with members, streamlined its structure, invested in new IT systems and website, and updated its Leeds-based training facilities, all of which Andrew says has made it more “fit for purpose” and given it more weight on the issues that matter.
It’s probably no coincidence that with the changes has come an increase in membership in the last 18 months, which Andrew estimates now stands at around 10% of the industry, so around 1,400 shops.
More people, it seems, are switching on to the benefits that their £3.60 monthly direct debit offers, whether this is help with HMRC investigations or fire claims to member-only deals such as preferential rates with Just Eat, discounted Quality Award and MSC certification or, something that’s in the pipeline, exclusive rates with a credit card company.
“Everything we do, we try and build in more value for people,” says Andrew, “but really it shouldn’t just be about what people get out of it, we do a lot of work that really does benefit everybody. If you’re in France you have to be part of your trade association, whereas here it’s not law.”
Just some of the work Andrew credits the NFFF for shaping of late is the Fish Frier Apprenticeships and the impending T-Level courses, which should be available at colleges by 2022, if not sooner, as well as the latest advice on portion control and calorie labelling via its Perfect Portion website.
There’s one issue that the NFFF has touched on several times in the past and which, up until now, it’s had little influence over and that’s lowering the VAT threshold. With Andrew convinced it’s near on impossible for shops in our industry to trade underneath the VAT threshold these days, it’s something he is keener than ever to push forward on. And with the support of the British Takeaway Campaign and partner organisations such as NCASS, The Bangladeshi Caterers Association and Curry Life, he believes there’s a chance this time that they could be heard.
He comments: “There’s an appetite there to try and get government to talk to us about a sensible way forward so that we can make it easier for businesses to grow and employ people because, at the moment, we are kind of stagnating. I know in my own business it’s always that VAT element that’s the bit that’s missing that stops me expanding further.”
Looking ahead, Andrew points to a number of trends that shops simply can’t avoid for much longer if they are to prosper: electronic payments, delivery at a price that’s right, legislation on mandatory food waste collections and the need to operate more energy efficiently.
“You need to be thinking of the future, don’t just think about the environment [you’re in] now, because the future will come quicker than we all expect,” Andrew remarks.
You can listen to Andrew’s vision for the NFFF, its members and the wider industry in our free podcast here.