With Christmas being the season of goodwill, it’s the ideal time to think about how your business can get involved in your local community during the forthcoming year
Whether it’s putting a collection jar on the counter, sponsoring a sports team or frying up free food, there’s something every fish and chip shop can do to help support their local community. And the size of your business, turnover and staff levels shouldn’t be a barrier - there’s plenty of ways to contribute whether it’s in terms of time, money or goods.
Embracing social causes not only benefits your community or chosen charity but also your business as giving back is a great way of engaging with your community and attracting new customers, giving you exposure that you might not otherwise have. It can also help create internal opportunities by boosting staff morale and can even give you a competitive advantage. In fact, faced with a choice between two businesses that offer food at the same price, some will choose the one that engages with charities and the wider local community.
In Skipton, Yorkshire, Bizzie Lizzie’s ensures it’s at the heart of the community by supporting numerous local organisations and events. As well as sponsoring local sports teams - Skipton Cricket Club and Barnoldswick Town Juniors Under 7’s to name just two - it also donates vouchers throughout the year to help with fundraising activities, and delivers fish and chips at a discounted rate to a local grammar school for its fundraising quiz night. On top of this, every November, when the local rotary club organises a charity Santa Fun Run in which more than 1,000 locals dressed as Santa complete a 5K course, the shop offers a 20% discount to all Santas after the event. Although it costs the shop money, many Santas bring their family and friends so overall sales revenues more than make up for the discount.
Owner Katie Davison comments: “Supporting the local community is good for business, it inspires customer loyalty, gets our name out and about and draws customers into our restaurants.
“But more than that, it is something that makes everyone at Bizzie Lizzie’s feel good about working here. All our staff live locally, many are involved with the clubs, schools and charities that we support, and our community activities make them feel proud to be a part of one of Skipton’s best-loved businesses.”
If sponsoring football teams and fun runs aren’t your thing, why not look around for a project you can get involved in? Krispies in Exmouth, Devon, for example, hooked up with local organisations to take part in a beach clean along the Exe Estuary. Not only did co-owner Kelly Barnes and staff roll up their sleeves and get stuck in with two hours of cleaning, but they treated volunteers to free fish and chips from the takeaway afterwards.
Kelly comments: “As a business owner it’s important to support the town you are in whatever way possible. We aren’t naive to know that this will raise our profile locally but we don’t do it for this reason. I do it because I want to, it would be selfish of me to be in a position where I can help people and not do it. Anything we choose to do is because it is close to our hearts.”
Working together with local businesses is another great way to bring about improvements in your community. This is exactly what The Bay Fish and Chips in Stonehaven did after the local council announced plans to close down the community toilets, meaning that there wouldn’t be any comfort facilities for people visiting the beachfront. By teaming up with the neighbouring ice cream parlour, the two businesses took care of the toilet block, renovated it and made it a more pleasant place to visit. While they foot the main bill, they ask people who spend a penny to leave a penny to help with the maintenance costs, which means whoever visits the beach has somewhere they can make a comfort stop – it literally benefits everyone.
Owner Calum Richardson comments: “I’d encourage any business to look around them at the community they’re a part of, and ask if there’s something they can do to make it even a little bit better. What do other local businesses think? It’s worth approaching your fellow business owners to group together and make an impact. Pop in and ask them, or ask your customers – what initiatives would they like to see?
“Then, the best advice I could possibly give is to go out and do something! Don’t just chat about your idea – be bold and make it happen for your community.”
Harbour Lights in Falmouth, Cornwall, has certainly been bold in its efforts. With a loyal customer base and so much of its business coming from word of mouth marketing, owners Pete and Sue Fraser are keen to find ways to give back. For example, last year it turned its Mr Whippy ice cream pink for a week and donated the proceeds to Breast Cancer UK. In January this year, however, it pulled out all the stops by organising its very own Community Hero Awards.
Asking locals to vote for people they felt went the extra mile, they held a fish and chips awards dinner at their restaurant and gave out cash prizes as well as awards created by a local sculptor.
Sue comments: “January can be such a tricky month to stay positive but this campaign was all about doing positive things, affecting change and making a difference. It was wonderful to see the local community get behind this idea and reading the nominations was truly inspirational.”
While not everyone has the space or people power to organise an awards ceremony, shops can take a lead from another Dorset-based chippy, Fish ‘n’ Fritz which runs a suspended food scheme enabling customers buying fish and chips or a coffee to pay for a second for someone in need. Requiring no investment, just a small bit of organising to ensure transparency, owner Paul Hay comments: “On many occasions, people come in to donate a coffee and a portion of fish and chips for someone. Over the Summer, one of our local churches in Weymouth dropped in a cheque for £160 for the purchase of coffees for those going through hard times or who may be homeless in the town. There is always an ample amount of suspended food and drinks behind the till waiting to be claimed.”
As well as the pay it forward scheme, Paul also runs an offer whereby £1 from every portion of scampi and chips ordered in the restaurant is donated to a local charity and he regularly hands out any leftover food to the local homeless community at the end of service.
Also making use of its sit-down facilities is The Cod’s Scallops in Carrington, Nottingham, which last year hosted a festive lunch for less fortunate families comprising a three-course meal with live entertainment, a visit from Santa and a selection box for every child. This year it’s organising a festive meal with Age UK offering a free chippy lunch to the lonely as a chance for them to enjoy eating with others.
Co-owner Helen Molnar says: “We do these things because we want to help the less fortunate in our area. The staff get a massive buzz from working the events and customers even offered to work last year when they heard about our Christmas lunch. Although it does take some time to organise and get the logistics right at the beginning, once in place it becomes as normal as soaking peas!”
Even if you’re tight on space, labour or money, there’s still plenty of ways you can make a difference. For example, The Cod’s Scallops’ Sherwood branch has just signed up with Olio, an app which enables the shop to advertise any food left overnight so that it can be collected by those less fortunate. It’s not just helping feed the local community but it’s also benefiting the business by reducing its food waste.
So why wait? Get started by looking around you, joining a community board or simply speaking to customers and asking what charities or causes they would like to see you support. And remember, cost-wise, many of these initiatives prove such an effective marketing tool that they go further than any adverts and offers you might do.
Did you know, as a limited company you pay less Corporation Tax when you give money or items you make? You can claim tax relief by deducting the value of your donations from your total business profits before you pay tax. The rules are different for sole traders and partnerships, but in either instance, it’s worth seeking professional advice to ensure you are giving to charity in the most tax efficient way. Find out more by visiting
Feeding folk in crisis
Chris’s Fish and Chips in Barwell, Leicester, has linked up with its local food bank to offer freshly cooked fish and chips to those in need.
Owner Strad Kyriacou has produced 1,000 vouchers which he’s given to the food bank to include in its emergency packs. These can then be redeemed for one of four hot meals in the shop.
Strad comments: “I’d heard on the news about more and more people having to use food banks so initially, I thought we’ll donate something. But people were saying it’s great that they have tinned food, but they are that desperate they can’t put the gas or electric on to cook it.”
In the four weeks since running the initiative, Strad has had 200 vouchers redeemed. He comments: “A good half of these people I’ve never seen before and now some of those have gone past the crisis and have come back in as customers. So it’s a great thing to do from a charity point of view but I honestly think businesses can make it work for them too. Shops need to see the added benefit of doing things like this.”
To find a food bank in your local area visit www.trusselltrust.org
Supporting sports for all ages
Land and Sea in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, ensures both ends of the age spectrum are covered by sponsoring the under 13’s Thirsk Falcons football team with its logo on their home strips and also Sowerby Flatt’s Bowling club, with signage around the green.
Owner Craig Weatherill comments: “The bowling sponsorship only cost a few hundred pounds, the footy strip cost nearly £500 but the shop gets to engage with age groups, young and old. Plus, it’s lovely seeing our name around the bowling green in summer and on the football strips when the team are playing at home. I know some shop owners probably would like to keep the money, but I believe in making a gesture to the local community.”
Why not register your business for Payroll Giving, which allows anyone who receives their pay through payroll to give regularly and on a tax free basis to the charities and good causes of their choice. Find out more at www.payrollgiving.co.uk