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In a different league

This month’s Fish Frying & Fast Food Show at Bristol City Football Club scored highly with visitors who left laden down with samples, special offers and new ideas

Taking place in Bristol City Football Club’s £43 million refurbed stadium, this year’s Fish Frying & Fast Food Show in conjunction with T.Quality attracted shop owners, managers and staff from far and wide.

Craig Maw and Nikki Mutton travelled up from their award-winning takeaway, Kingfisher Fish & Chips, in their mobile unit Kingfisher On The Go, which they parked up right outside the doors, giving visitors a chance to look round and inspect the vehicle.

Meanwhile, the show’s furthest visitor came all the way from Coolangatta on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, Australia. Hoping to open his own fish and chip shop, Dave Jones explains the reason for attending: “It was a great opportunity to come to the show and find out about the ranges and the different products that I might be able to import to Australia. 

“Although Australia has lots of fish and chip shops, they are very different to the traditional British chippy and they serve very different species of fish. There are only nine British chippies in Australia with the closest to me being about 100km away. A friend of mine has just opened one and it has a mile long queue out the door every day. British fish and chips are very popular.”

Not travelling quite as far, but still out to glean new ideas was Ian Gronwalt, owner of The Little Plaice in Cornwall. He picked up a Merlin portable filter machine at the show from Premier One Filtration and, as a newcomer having only had the shop for four months, said the exhibition was a great source of ideas. He commented: “Our customers are very set in their ways, they are predominantly 50 years and older, they know what they want and it’s very hard to encourage them to try anything different.

“We introduced cans of drinks to the menu a while ago and we didn’t sell a single one. So coming here is an opportunity to speak to other friers, bounce ideas off each other and find out better ways to operate. We’ve bought a Merlin filtration machine, which is a really good investment. At the moment I’m changing the oil twice a week, so I’ve worked out it should save us about £4,000 a year on oil.”

Wife Ginine was equally impressed with Dinaclass’s Irish Curry Sauce, which was available for sampling on the Kerry Foodservice stand along with its Piri-Piri chip seasoning and Chicken Train Lemon & Herb Marinade. She commented: “It’s gorgeous. With some curry sauces the spice overpowers the flavour, but with this one you taste all the flavour and the spice as well.

“We’re taking some samples back with us so we’ll give it away to our customers and, if they like it, we’ll be using it. It’s also really good for us because it doesn’t contain any beef suet so it will appeal to our vegetarian and vegan customers, which we get quite a lot of.”

Caught sampling Pacific West’s Seafood Basket was Eddie Hockley who is due to launch a mobile fish and chip van shortly. He came to the show looking for inspiration and to find answers to some common questions. He comments: “I’ve come here for ideas and also to get a decent balance of what the industry is and to understand all the different products. I love the panko coating and would really love to coat my fillets in it to give customers another option, but my concern was how the crumbs would affect the oil. Speaking with Pacific West they have provided me with the answer, which is to buy a little stand-alone fryer and use that specifically for the panko products.”

With customers looking for offers and new products to freshen up their menus, there was an array of items to choose from including Double A Kebab’s Keburger, Fast Food Systems’ Premier Chicken Gravy and Piri Piri Salt and Keejay’s Japanese Style Curry Sauce.

Little changes

Demonstrating to visitors how little changes to the menu can make a big difference to profits was Claire Mellor, national account manager for Kara Foods. Its range of floured, seeded, glazed, oval, brioche and gluten free baps was evidence that trading up to a premium bap can increase the selling price quite significantly.

“It’s a trend that started in the restaurant trade but now the fast food market is moving to quality burgers and charging £7-8 a time, so want a decent bun to go with it,” she remarked. “Plus it’s not just burgers or sausages being served in buns anymore, we’re finding more shops adding chicken and breaded chicken to the menu to offer variety, all of which can look more premium simply by trading up from the traditional floured bap. We are also seeing gluten free customers want what everyone else is having, so we’ve added an individually wrapped gluten free bun, so shops can get them out as and when needed.”

Staying with the premium theme, Britvic was sampling its new lemonade range available in three flavours raspberry, pear and elderflower, and traditional cloudy.Gavin Simpson, customer development manager, commented. “We’re seeing a shift to more premium drinks so with this new range we’re building on our heritage - R Whites is famous for its lemonade - while helping shops broaden their range and appeal to those customers.”

To entice people to purchase, Gavin recommends offering the cans on a free basis with a meal deal and positioning them where customers can clearly see them. Price is also key, with Gavin adding: “We find in a fish and chip shop you really need to keep the price of a can to under 70p, so for a premium drink, that’s pretty good.”

Improve presentation

With customers increasingly looking to improve presentation, packaging supplier Coveris saw an increased interest in both its children’s boxes and its Bio Boxes. Robin Lucraft, national sales manager, commented: “The children’s boxes have been really popular as they give shops a way of selling something that’s specifically for kids and we’ve had shops tell us that children want to collect the range of boxes too.

“With the Bio Boxes, it’s really their biodegradability properties that are drawing people towards them. That and also the quality of the actual fish and chips because even after 15-20 minutes you’ve still got hot and crispy fish and chips in the box.”

With shops also enquiring about a branded bio box and the minimum order being 50,000, Robin was able to advise on a much easier and cost effective solution. “It’s quite a high minimum order for a lot of shops, so we recommend the plain Bio Box but with a branded adhesive label, either a sticker on the top or a seal across the box which customers can tear as they open the box. They both work equally well. Otherwise, we have a fully branded cardboard box with a minimum order of 25,000. We’re finding a lot more shops are going down this route, especially those operators that own two, three or more shops and want to unify them.”

Another crowd-pleaser was Central Foods’ Italian Pizza Twist. Microwaved in a minute and a half from frozen, the margarita and pepperoni varieties were appealing to shops looking to extend their offering but which didn’t want to invest in new equipment or worry about stocking lots of extra ingredients. Mark Coventry, business development manager, described it as “the ultimate in convenience”, adding: “If you can do mushy peas, you can do pizza. And by the time you’ve wrapped a portion of chips, your pizza is ready.”

Technology was in abundance at the show with ZPos demonstrating the benefits of setting up an online ordering website, whether it’s utilised for home delivery or simply a click and collect service for shops that want an online presence but without the hassle of deliveries. Vito, meanwhile, sold two of its V80 portable oil filtration systems on the day with many more visitors impressed with its speed - filtering 80 litres of oil per minute - as well as its ease of use. Kim Addison, marketing manager, commented: “Another key point visitors liked was the idea of being able to use it during service and in particularly mobile fish and chips trailers loved its portability as they don’t have room for the more cumbersome mobile units.”

Discussing the merits of a shop refurbishment was Barland Shopfitters with MD Robert Cleveland explaining: “When a shop undergoes a refurbishment, not only do they see a big rise in customers, which increases turnover, but also staff are happier as they are working in a much nicer environment.

“We’ve been explaining to customers how we can look at the layout of the shop, consider the list of equipment, what’s cooking and what’s selling and implement that all into the plan.”

Talking about the success of the show, Joe Kendrick, marketing manager for T.Quality said: “It was another superb exhibition with literally hundreds of show orders taken on the day.

“We were proud to promote our new nationwide used cooking oil service at the front of the main entrance alongside our core own brands SeaPure, Trawler packaging, Omega oil, Epulo kebabs, Quality frozen food and Kerry Foodservice frying samples from our delicious haddock from Atlantika and tasty Ramoen cod.

“Everyone from T. Quality would like to thank Nikki Mutton and Craig Maw from Kingfisher Fish & Chips for attending the show and happily assisting with advice and guidance.”

The Fish Frying & Fast Food Show will return once again next year with a new date and a new location to be revealed shortly.

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