An express-style fish and chip shop attached to a petrol station, it’s a very different proposition to Frydales on Hinckley Road, a more community-based takeaway where Charlie’s worked for eight years and managed for the past five years.
Despite the differences, at both shops, the prime focus is serving a top quality product and Charlie is always open to learning new methods and processes. So when he was picked up on his batter making skills during an assessment for Drywite’s Young Fish Frier of the Year competition last year, he took the opportunity to look at what other products were available.
“I went through about 15-20 different batters,” comments Charlie. “I literally bought every single one and Ceres Natural Batter Mix was the most consistent. I’ve been on it for nearly a year and I use it at both shops. I think, for me, it stays slightly crispier and holds slightly better than most batters, which is really important, especially when we started doing deliveries on a bigger scale as it needs to last that bit longer.”
Serving around 1,400 portions of fish and chips a week at his Hinckley Road site alone, when Charlie took over at Syston, naturally, there was a significant increase in fish trimmings. He didn’t sell enough fish bites to utilise it all and he was reluctant to introduce anything too time-consuming like a fish pie, so he put the excess trimmings into fishcakes, replacing a bought-in product for a homemade version using Ceres Fishcake Base Mix.
Charlie comments: “We tried a couple of different fishcake recipes but we struggled with the consistency. The Ceres Fishcake Base Mix gave us the chance over the two shops to have a simple recipe that anyone could make.
“The fishcakes are quick to make. It’s literally 30 to 45 minutes to make and shape and 10 minutes to breadcrumb. And they really don’t cost a lot as, essentially, the fish is free.”
It’s not just Ceres’ products that have benefited Charlie’s business; having Ceres founder Stelios Theocharous on hand to identify specific needs and find solutions has been a game-changer. Using its Pea Seasoning, for example, has made a significant difference to the taste of its mushy peas, doubling sales in the space of eight months. “It’s consistent and it contains just the right level of salt and sugar so the mushy peas taste fantastic,” Charlie explains.
“It’s Stelios’s general knowledge and the time he’s willing to put in that’s important too,” he continues. “One time, he came out because the batter was patchy in colour. Stelios looked at our processes – we use rice flour – and saw that the fish wasn’t dry enough so it was adding moisture to the rice flour, which was causing the patchiness. He looks at things you wouldn’t see yourself. We literally didn’t have any idea what we were doing wrong.”
With Charlie having doubled the turnover at Hinckley since taking over, and with Syston already noticeably busier, on Charlie’s radar now is winning Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year competition in January. “It would be nice to win it. It’s the third time I’ve been in it so third time lucky!” he comments.