As shops look to smarten up their image, the counter is becoming as important a design feature as the rest of the decor
If you look back at some of the early frying ranges they were, in fact, quite magnificent pieces of artwork festooned with mirrors, etched glass and ornate detailing. As time has gone on these intricate designs have been toned down somewhat in favour of sleek, uninterrupted lines and more modern stainless steel. However, with shops increasingly looking for ways to standout, more are making a feature of their counter to attract customers in through the door.
It’s something Jack Price, office manager at Henry Nuttall, has noticed, who comments: “Operators are trying to dress the range up in line with their shopfit. To be honest, for us, stainless steel is still the most popular option when it comes to counters and that’s to do with the fact you can have curved or inverted panels to give different effects. A lot more shops are also going for laser cut logos and images too as they realise the importance of branding.”
With advances in technology, range manufacturers, shopfitters and signage companies have the ability to make almost any design a reality. Jack continues: “Potentially, anything is possible as long as it withstands the fact that it’s in a fish and chip shop. We can work with laminates and vinyl, we can make a counter look classic or really modern, or we can simply supply the plyboard so customers can dress it as they like.”
Costas Nicodemou, who owns signage company CR Signs with Raj Ral, says the same, adding: “The only thing that limits what can be done is what’s behind the range, so you need to think about how the range is constructed. If, for example, there isn’t a lot of space behind the panels you might not be able to have LED lights, but on most counters there’s the serving section that tends to have space behind it so you could have pretty much anything you want on there.”
A recent range install completed by Henry Nuttall for Q Fish Bar in Banbury, Oxfordshire, involved a stainless steel counter complete with laser cut logo, blue and orange perspex and LED lights.
Peter Christoforou, who runs the chippy with his brother and parents, wanted customers to have the connection with the logo immediately when they walked in, but he also wanted to make the most of his shop’s glass frontage. Peter comments: “I see the counter as a bit of free advertising space for us, there’s no point wasting it. And first impressions go a long way. If somebody can see in they know immediately what you are about and what kind of business you are. It highlights lots of areas, for example, that we are a clean shop and a busy shop.”
Also opting for stainless steel front panels when he opened his latest shop, Queen’s in Ibstock, Leicestershire, is Mindy Singh. But instead of the conventional convex or concave design, he chose Hewigo’s angled diamond effect panel which reflects light in different directions. Mindy says: “It looks great, it really brightens up the shop and we’ve got the Queen’s logo built into it as well which reinforces our brand as we have other shops with the same name.”
Mindy also made use of the width of the shop by asking Hewigo to build in a chiller cabinet for drinks and cakes. Mindy adds: “Fish and chip shops offer so much choice now that I think people sometimes forget what we have on offer. Whereas most shops have their drinks behind the counter somewhere, bringing them to the front means when customers walk in they are in their mind’s eye and this definitely helps prompt impulse purchases.”
Mario Crolla has transformed an empty unit in Glasgow into a bright, modern takeaway called Mario’s and made a feature of his three pan Scotrange by working with his joiner to create a wooden drawers and doors effect.
“It’s so important to be different,” says Mario. “It’s not like the old days, there’s more competition now. Customers love the counter, especially the little kids who are always trying to open the doors and drawers!”
Scotrange 01592 775269 www.scotrange.co.uk
The front panel of a range lends itself perfectly to individualised covers such as vinyl pictures or full colour to match a shop’s branding and colour scheme. This is ideal in situations where shops might want to revamp their shop but not purchase a new range, as was the case for Oh My Cod owner Sundeep Rai. Refurbishing her takeaway in Spalding, Lincolnshire, she used a local signage company to replicate a Union Jack design she had seen on a Kiremko range at a previous Friars Pride Exhibition.
Sundeep comments: “Everyone has their name on the range, we wanted to do something different but something that was in keeping with the rustic black and white look we had gone for in the shop.
“Also, there’s so much stainless steel in a chip shop, so this really stands out. Everyone thought we had put a new range in! We’ve had so many people come in and say they would expect to see a shop like this in a big city like Edinburgh or London, not a small town like Spalding.”
It’s not just the counter faces customers are pimping up, Michael Jordan opted for a crystal effect inset on the top of his counter - a very recent innovation from Hewigo - when he installed a new range at his takeaway, Lit by LED from below, the effect is not only unusual but it also means that the top of the counter is warm to the touch. Michael comments: “We went for the cracked glass effect to be different and move with the times. But it’s also heated so when we put wrapped food on the counter it helps keep it warm. We get a lot of customers coming in over the winter and warming their hands on it too!
“You’ve got to be different today, the food industry is such a tough game. Plus, why not use the counter? It’s a big feature and a big expense!”
Of course, the counter can be left blank so that styling appropriate to the overall branding of the outlet can be added by the operator. This is exactly what Florigo customer Cas Ricardo did when she refurbished Seafare in Cirencester. Employing a local chalkboard artist to paint the MDF panels supplied as standard with the range, she has a unique design which includes key words such as “freshly cooked” and “sustainably sourced” along with the shop’s social media details.
Cas comments: “When we refurbished the shop we knew we wanted to do the counter and we knew we didn’t want something that everyone has or that would date. We also wanted something that was in keeping with the shop but that we could utilise to tell people what we are about. You can get quite a lot of signs in a shop and the messages become a bit of a blur to customers. This stands out but at the same time blends in with the shop. And it’s bespoke to us.”
Whether you’re operating a takeaway or a restaurant, your counter really can make a difference to the overall look, so it’s worth exploring the options. In a time when customers buy with their eyes more than ever, it’s the perfect canvass to promote your brand and your values.
It’s all white
Rob Moretto, owner of Seaways Fish & Chips in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, took inspiration from KFE’s Market Deeping showroom, when shopfitting company Centreplan carried out a refurbishment of the shop, which included updating the panels on the Kiremko frying range.
Choosing a white brick effect with the words ‘tradition’ and ‘quality’ lit up in red, the counter instantly sets out the stall for customers. Rob comments: “Food is important, obviously, but now more than ever you’ve got to have the whole package. If you can get customers to walk in and say “wow”, they are already half sold on you. As long as the product is good, you’ve got those people coming back.”
That’s not the only benefit of the new counter as a built-in heated display cabinet has seen sales of its southern fried chicken almost double.
KFE 01778 380448 www.kfeltd.co.uk
Centreplan 0808 160 1188 www.centreplan.com
Shansel Mehmet, owner of Salt & Vinegar in New Malden, south west London, worked with range manufacture Hopkins and her builders to create an impact with her industrial-lead counter design featuring gridded stainless steel and black built-up lettering. She comments: “We wanted to be different instead of traditional. We’re a new business in the area and we needed to stand out, not just amongst other fish and chip shops, but other restaurants too as there is loads of competition on our high street.”
Hopkins 0113 257 7934 www.hopkins.biz