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Keeping a close eye

Monitoring how its fish is cut and keeping an eye on price per ounce means that even when prices are increasing Krispies doesn’t get any nasty surprises, as Tim Barnes explains

We’ve been in the fish and chip trade now for 30 years so we’ve seen plenty of peaks and troughs when it comes to fish prices and the last 12 months have been no different. Prices have been gradually increasing - I would say we are paying 20% more now than this time last year - and I think we will still see further price increases for some months to come.

With 80% of our sales being fish, this is certainly putting pressure on our margins. But because we keep our ear to the ground and are continually in discussions with our suppliers, we tend to get a good picture of what the months ahead will hold, which means we never really get a shock - even if it’s not what we want to hear! What this enables us to do is plan ahead, make changes and work any increases into our prices if need be. I do think shops have to be savvy in what they charge the customer and not be afraid to raise prices if needed. We have always absorbed the cost to a point, but it’s about protecting the business, which in turn will ensure that fish and chips is around for the long term.

How we work is we regularly look at our prices and monitor what we are cutting per ounce. Monitoring portion control is something we take very seriously and it’s important that even if it’s not me always cutting the fish, at least once a week I check those that are doing it are getting the same weight per ounce. We do this by having a sheet that is filled in daily by the person cutting fish so immediately we can see if we are getting the right yield. If not, we know who to speak to straight away and address any issues - it may not be anything to do with the person cutting the fish it could be a problem with the size or quality of the product. I think price increases only really come as a shock if you aren’t monitoring what you’re buying or paying daily. We also ensure any trimmings are utilised by turning them into fishcakes and cod bites. Why throw profit away?

Plus, we speak to all our suppliers to ensure we are getting the best price for the fish we want. We are aware there is cheaper fish out there, but we know what our customers like and they can tell the difference.

Because of this, we have been using the same trawler for three years. We buy skinless boneless, 16-32oz fillets. The first cut is always a regular from the fillet and then depending on the weight of what is left, we would either make a large and a mini or two regulars. Obviously, that depends on the weight of the fillet to start, but after years of cutting you can normally gauge that first cut accurately.

We have recently brought someone in to cut our fish and, I have to say, teaching him was hard as he’d been a fisherman for over 30 years and had many bad knife skills. He was used to gutting not portioning! However, after seven months, he now cuts how we do. It’s a weight off our minds and it’s one less thing Kelly and I need to worry about.

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