At the best of times, we get lots of calls from people that are looking to enter the fish and chip industry. But more importantly, we get many requests for advice after buying a shop, and the list of jobs becomes a little overwhelming.
We thought we would compile a list of key tasks that should be checked once you’ve taken over and implemented before opening.
We are seeing an influx of entrants into the fish and chip industry, so now seems a great time to put this out there.
They aren’t necessarily in order of priority, but I would say they are all critical and, to make it easy, we have broken it down into things to do before you buy, before you complete and once you’ve taken over.
Business plans are brilliant and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have one. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have it perfect from day one. It can evolve with you.
Here are three reasons why you should have a business plan
1️⃣ It will help you steer your business as you start and grow
2️⃣ It will help you to reach business milestones.
3️⃣ It can help you get funding
It’s not as hard as you think and there’s no wrong way to write a business plan.
Buying or selling a business can be a daunting prospect and for many people who find themselves involved in a business sale for the first time, nothing in their previous experience will properly prepare them for it.
Find a solicitor that is both experienced in business purchases but and independent so they can advise you properly .
It is not recommended to use by a firm introduced by the business transfer agent or by the seller.
Running a business is an absolute minefield, being a sole trader, a partnership, a limited company etc., this is just the beginning, VAT registered or not. Then there is the issue of pricing your products and making sure you are as competitive as possible and as profitable as you can be.
Here are a few reasons why you should have an accountant:
✅ Saves you time & money
✅ They are up to speed with legislation and taxes
✅ Business support and advice
✅ Full account management
✅ Regular profit & loss figures
✅ It makes life easy
A good accountant might be expensive but not as expensive as a bad accountant, so make sure you ask around and when you meet an accountant, press them on your concerns.
To help, we recently wrote an article on how to find an accountant.
If you’ve taken a loan to buy your business then chances are you already have a business bank account set up but, if you don’t, I would be choosing a bank that is highly recommended as opposed to local.
When situations get sticky, it is good to have a business manager at the bank that you are familiar with.
Before purchasing the business, it is a good idea to make sure the previous business owner has got staff contracts in place and that you are not inheriting any pending lawsuits (for example unfair dismissal etc.).
If you can, sit down with the previous owner and get a little information on each staff member and then, when you take over, have a one-to-one appraisal with each member of staff as well as a team meeting. This is a good time to find out any individual issues but also to find out the strengths and weaknesses from the employees’ point of view. The team meeting will also be useful for you to let them know your intentions.
Here is a guide on TUPE.
I would say one of the first things to do is to sit down and go through all of your utilities to try to get the best prices and make sure there are no lock-in clauses.
It would be a good idea to make sure the previous owner is all paid up and up-to-date. When you call utility companies you may have to give meter readings so make sure you also have a forwarding address for the previous owner just in case you need it.
In terms of business insurance, make sure your policy is fit for purpose. Time after time, I have seen policies woefully undervalued. It is easy to say, but don’t go for the cheapest insurance provider as this will turn out to be more expensive if something goes wrong.
When you start a new business, or take over an existing one, you must register with your local council at least 28 days before opening and a food safety inspection will follow.
You might be reluctant to get in touch with your local environmental health officer but being proactive in this department helps. If you can get them to visit and have a look around, they can advise you on any improvements and can perhaps help you fast track your goals. They will also be able to inform you of the records you need to keep and how you should keep them.
Make sure you get your Food Safety Certificates in order.
Build relationships with your suppliers by calling them all in and asking for their best prices on all your core products. And don’t assume they are trying to rip you off, they want your order every week, and if they scalp you once you will not buy off them again, so it is not worth it to them.
Pick their brains about the industry too, what the trends are, what new products they have coming out. The more proactive you are, the more they will want to work with you.
You may think this is a little extreme, but doing all of this will put you in a better place operationally.
Get on the phone with the range manufacturer or the range service company, ask them about the frying range or any historical issues. If the frying range hasn’t had a service, then get one booked in. Ask the service engineer as much as you can and make sure you can open without any issues.
Get a PAT testing company to come out and check that all your electrical equipment is safe to operate.
Clean down the whole shop from side to side and top to bottom, then start washing down peelers and chippers and so on.
Give the pans a boil out, empty the oil and start fresh. Giving the pans a good boil out gets rid of any impurities and carbon and means you can start with a clean slate.
Don’t invest hundreds of thousands of pounds into a venture and not do training, especially if you are new to the industry. The only way to get better at something is to practise, but not all practise is equal. In my view, you need to learn from someone who really knows the job and then keep on a quest of learning.
You have several options. You can do off-site training at KFE School of Frying Excellence in Peterborough or undergo an NFFF training course in Leeds or you can opt for in-shop training from both. There are lots of experienced fish and chip shop operators who also work on a consultancy basis that you could approach. And don’t rule out working at someone else’s fish and chip shop, although this would be best to do before the purchase of your shop.
Keep practising, using the advice from experts to develop specific abilities, identify any weaknesses and work to correct them, and try and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do bear in mind that in the fish and chip shop trade there are many “right” ways of doing things so find the methods that work best for you. Don’t just adopt someone else’s way of working as it might not suit your business.
In a rapidly changing world, success comes from deliberate experimentation and a healthy dose of emotional intelligence
Don’t run before you can walk and go changing the menu too much unless you have bought a bit of a pig.
For the main part, I would use the first three to six months just to keep the ship steady. Make sure the shop is spotless, and the service is spot on. If you have that excellent accountant in place, you can start looking at your sales data and begin trimming the menu back. If the menu is not a large one and you want to expand it then take your time to evaluate what sort of product you spend your time on.
For many people, building a marketing plan falls to the bottom of their list of priorities, but if customers don’t know you are open you won’t have a business for long. Dedicate a pot of money that you are willing to spend on marketing and use this wisely, whether that’s advertising, leaflet drops or promotions. Also look at free options, such as social media. Certainly, set up Facebook, Instagram & Twitter pages, introduce yourselves, include updates if you are refurbishing the shop, and add details of when you will be opening etc. Keep this updated. Maybe there is a staff member that is a whizz on social media who can manage these for you.
If you do put this in the hands of somebody else make sure you have all the log in details or are an “admin” because if they leave, they take this with them.
Also speak to your local press, tell them about the changes you’ve made and ask them to come and review your shop once you’re up and running.
I would always recommend a soft launch for any new business. That means opening the doors a few days before your grand opening to ensure everything is running smoothly and to make any last-minute changes. It also gives staff time to bed in and get used to working with their new team.
In many cases, it has been shown that with some heavy negotiation, you can get the price of accepting debit card payments to almost what it costs to bank with cash.
We have put together some pointers to help choose the right credit card merchant.
I hope these tips help, I know how hard the fish and chip industry can be, but it can also be very rewarding.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.