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Awards season

With the 2018 National Fish & Chip Awards now open, Andy Hillier, manager at Harbourside in Plymouth, Devon, and 2017 Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year runner-up, explains why he’s entering again and talks about the positive impact winning can have on a business

It’s award season and I’m pleased to say Harbourside is really going for it this year and entering multiple categories. Obviously, we would love to win Independent Takeaway, that’s the big one that everyone looks forward to, but I also think there’s a lot of value in entering the other categories too. I think we’re actually going for about six or seven in total, including Marketing Innovation, Good Catch, Young Fish Frier and the NFFF Quality Award.

We took time out last year from the awards as we were busy converting the top two stories above the takeaway into a restaurant and a prep area. I think that was a sensible decision because, in that year, we’ve got the business to a really good point. It’s probably the most organised it’s ever been, so we’re feeling pretty confident going into the awards this year.

I would definitely recommend other shops enter the National Fish & Chip Awards too because of the benefits in turnover of customers and also because  the free advertising you get from being a finalist, and of course winning, is fantastic. It’s become a great marketing scheme to have the award’s logo in our window.

It’s also worth looking at local awards you can enter too because anything that says you are the best at what you do will help get you noticed. Last year, Harbourside won Best Food on the Go at the Waterfront Awards hosted by the Plymouth Herald. This was excellent for business as The Plymouth Herald is the number one news outlet down here and, because we’re quite a small city, word quickly spread. We had so many people popping in because they had read about our win in the newspaper, and we also had a lot of new customers come in too who were keen to try us out and, thankfully, they’ve come back since.

Entering any awards also helps keep standards high as you’re continually checking that you meet all the criteria and that the shop is operating to best practice. Also, getting feedback helps pick out areas to improve upon. For example, the year before last, we fell down on our marketing, so we took a step back and reassessed things. That has been really important and we’re now about to introduce some new ideas which will really help take the shop forward and hopefully increase our chances of winning an award too.

Something else we’ve done is have a major push on Trip Advisor. Three to four months ago, we were something like 53rd out of 523 places to eat in Plymouth - now we’re at 18. As well as bumping us up the rankings, this recent campaign is providing us with feedback which, in turn, is helping us see how customers are reacting to our products.

As I’m writing this, I’m gearing up for my fourth year of entering Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year. It’s my last chance as I turn 25 this year, so I would love to walk away with the title in my final year. But having said that, the winner is always a great ambassador for the industry so I’ll be pleased for whoever it is.

A little tip before I finish, and it’s something I’ve learned from being in the competition before, is that the judges want to see that you know best practice, so do your research properly and don’t necessarily rely on what you do in your shop as everyone does things slightly differently. And, of course, enjoy the experience.

Good luck to everyone entering the awards and I hope you all have a great summer.

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