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Chip shops lose out on a growing market, says report

Britain’s fish and chip shops are losing visits while other quick-service restaurants (QSR) are attracting more traffic than ever before, according to new research by NPD Group.

Its figures reveal that QSR outlets serving fast food recorded 5.9 billion visits as of year-end (YE) February 2017, up 9.2% since 2009. This compares with 327 million visits to fish and chips for YE February 2017, down 4.4% over the past eight years.

This means fish and chip shops are trailing the expansion of Britain’s wider QSR market by nearly 14 percentage points. Fish and chips now only represent 5.6% of total QSR, compared to 6.4% for YE February 2009.

One of the reasons cited for the drop in visits is a failure to take on the growing range of eating-out options on Britain’s high streets. Millennials – those in the 18 to 34 age group – are happy to eat in QSR outlets and account for 30% of QSR visits. But they appear to see fish and chips as out-of-touch and only contribute around 15% of the visits to a local chippy.

It also highlights the lack of facilities to eat in at fish and chip shops, with one in three (29%) people going to a high-street fast-food outlet sit down for their meal, five times higher than for fish and chip shops (6%).

Where the industry does fare better, however, is the quality of food with more than one in three (36%) people saying they visit fish and chip shops for this reason whereas for QSR outlets quality is a lower motivation at one in four visits (24%).

The research also notes a big disparity in profit, with the price per item in the wider QSR market up by 7.5% between 2009 and 2017 but 2.6% for the fish and chip shop sector.

To claw back some of this lost revenue, the report suggests fish and chip shops make more of lunchtime business with longer opening hours, smaller portions, packaging that enables food to be taken back to the office, and meal deals.

QSR outlets generally attract more than 35% of their daily visits at lunchtime, but for fish and chips it’s 24%. Meanwhile, nearly three out of ten QSR visits involve special deals and promotions that attract customers seeking the best value for money but this figure drops to one in 14 for fish and chip shops.

Cyril Lavenant, foodservice director UK at the NPD Group, said: “With the exception of two types of quick-service food – fish and chips as well as ‘ethnic’ takeaways such as kebabs – all of the quick service channels in Britain have managed to grow since the 2008/2009 recession because they have transformed their business.

“The British foodservice market could be worth more than £57 billion by the end of 2018 and attracting 11.5 billion visits each year. But the nation’s fish and chip operators must adapt to changing trends if they want a slice of that success.”

He adds: “Eating out is a crowded marketplace with exciting new approaches to food. But the fish and chips world just doesn’t seem to get it. Millennials are certainly unimpressed and probably see fish and chips as old fashioned. How long can this decline last? Our traditional fish and chip shops are in real danger of one day disappearing from the British high street.”

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