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Making the most of the latest tastes

What’s hot and what’s not on the takeaway, restaurant and eating out scene? Frozen food distributor Central Foods has been supplying the foodservice industry for 21 years. MD Gordon Lauder explains the latest food trends, and serves up tips on how fish and chip shop owners could boost sales

Where are the growth areas in eating out?

We know from consumer trends that customers are eating out more often at virtually all parts of the day – but breakfast is currently the fastest growing eating out experience. It’s up 10%. Although not an occasion you’d traditionally expect a fish and chip shop to cater for, it’s one that’s worth considering.

Also, the traditional lines between breakfast, brunch and other meals are continuing to blur. We now live in a 24-hour society, with consumers eating meals throughout the day, so extending opening hours for breakfast catering might be an idea for fish and chip shop operators – depending on their location and potential customer base. It could be relatively easy to provide quality coffee and breakfast items – similar to those breakfast items served by the major takeaway chains. Try products like sausage burger buns, breakfast wraps or individually wrapped fruit breads to catch commuters, night shift workers returning home and others who are passing in the morning.

Go for frozen items that are quick to regenerate, versatile and can be served up in similar or different formats for other meal occasions throughout the day. Frozen products allow fish and chip shop operators to reduce wastage as they can use just what is required, rather than trying to second guess how much stock will be needed for the day and ending up with surplus.

What are the current popular trends in eating out?

There’s been a huge increase in demand for free-from items, including gluten-free products and food that’s suitable for vegans and vegetarians. It’s reckoned that the free-from market is worth more than £627 million now and is continuing to grow. As well as an increasing number of vegans and vegetarians – IPSOS Mori reports there are now more than half a million vegans and 1.14 million vegetarians in the UK -  there has also been a rise in the number of flexitarians, with one in three avoiding meat most of the time.

Clearly many customers visit fish and chip takeaways and restaurants because they want to eat fish and chips, but if a group or family is ordering, you’d expect now that within that group there are likely to be customers who are avoiding gluten or who would prefer a meat-free option or have other dietary preferences or requirements. I’d recommend fish and chip shop operators offer a variety of free-from items to satisfy this growing demand and cater for everyone in a group.

In terms of fashionable food, street food is a big seller, along with gourmet fast food and artisan bread. Comfort food is another trend that’s going down well.

How can fish and chip shop owners take advantage of these trends?

Always ensure that you have something on the menu that’s suitable for different dietary requirements. It’s expected nowadays that these will be just as tasty as everything else on the menu and with the range that’s currently available – whether that’s a gluten free pizza base or gluten free sausage, or a cheese and onion or meat-free sausage roll – there’s no excuse for it not to be. Most frozen items cook straight from frozen, which is ideal, as it means products are always on hand and avoids operators being caught out!

Fortunately, it’s quite easy for fish and chip shop owners to add a twist to their menus to serve up hand-held street food-style items – often it’s just a case of opting for a suitable tasty flatbread and creating a delicious filling. Again, there are many items that operators can buy in to make this a simple process, from flavoured flatbreads and wraps to filling options like fish, poultry or vegan items, such as reformed scampi-style bites.

Pimp up products like fish, burgers or sausages by using an artisan bread item as the ‘bun’ and topping with something special to create gourmet fast food. Try adding a portion of mac ‘n’ cheese on top of the burger for maximum wow factor and visual appeal, or pretzels or nachos for extra crunch and texture, or a grilled pineapple ring topped with caramelised onions for a sweet/savoury flavour explosion.

How can extra custom be encouraged?

Communication is king! Use social media such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to share updates and appetising photos of menu items and special offers. Try events like ‘meat-free Monday’ or tap into special days and weeks such as National Fish & Chip Day, National Burger Day or National Vegetarian Week. Highlight on menus and point-of-sale information such as posters that you offer gluten free and vegan options, for example, to showcase that you’ve thought and catered for those with differing dietary requirements – not just those who are looking for fish and chips. Advertise this fact on your Facebook page, in social media biogs and on your website.

What other items could fish and chip shop owners add to their menus?

Poultry remains the most popular meat served in the UK – appealing to widespread sectors of society. Our Golden Valley Foods range is a big seller because it features chicken in a variety of formats, is available in consistent size and quality, contains no hydrogenated fats or MSG, and has free point-of-sale material, including posters.

Consider introducing and offering grab-and-go desserts to encourage customers to ‘trade up’. It’s normal for operators to offer fizzy drinks alongside fish and chips, but there’s a wide range of frozen grab-and-go-desserts that could also be offered, such as apple fry pies, doughnuts or individually-wrapped cakes and slices.

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