With National Fish & Chip Day just one day away, there are mixed feelings in the industry as some shops welcome the event with deals and discounts and others remain concerned about the financial impact of coronavirus and the timing of the event.
Plenty of shops are marking the day with promotions, for example, Knights Fish Restaurant in Glastonbury, Somerset, is offering click and collect takeaway customers 10% off, Salop Fish Bar in Oswestry, Shropshire, is giving away a free drink with every cod and chips while Fish! in London’s Borough Market is offering 20% off across its restaurant and takeaway.
Emir Hikary, owner of Hiks in Swansea, Wales, isn’t letting coronavirus hamper celebrations and, instead, is using low potato prices this year to his advantage by offering free chips with every cod for his walk-in and restaurant customers.
He comments: “We always celebrate National Fish & Chip Day, it’s good for the shop and good for fish and chips. In previous years we used to give away free sides with every fish and chips because potato prices were so expensive we couldn't do big promotions like free chips. This year, potato prices have worked out in our favour and are so much cheaper so we have the margins to do it.
“For businesses in any sector, this year has been a big struggle so if we can come out and give something free and celebrate, it is a good thing.”
Emir has taken every precaution to keep queues to a minimum by offering click and collect, adapting the flow of customers into the shop and changing the way it cooks. Emir adds: “We only allow three customers in the shop and we’re lucky we have two entrances so we have a one-way system where customers order at the till, move to another station and then to another to get served. It works smoothly and the turn around on the food is quicker now as we used to cook fish fresh then and there, but now we add three or six pieces of cod, knowing they are going to go in the next few minutes and we top it up so customers aren’t waiting around too long.”
Not all shops are as keen to offer deals and discounts this year and have scaled-back on activities, instead choosing to focus on simply celebrating the day on social media and in-store.
Kelly Barnes, owner of Krispies in Exmouth, Devon, is putting up the bunting but is mindful of doing anything that is going to bring extra attention to the shop.
“I just don’t feel it’s the right thing to do at the moment,” she says. “We’ve had a great summer, the weather has been great, the VAT reduction has helped but we don’t know what’s going to happen this winter. Will there be a second wave? Will we go into another lockdown? I need to be holding on to every penny and not giving things away.
“I know there are a lot of businesses doing extremely well at the moment, but there are a lot of businesses still suffering too. Offering money off, we shouldn’t feel under pressure to do that. Get behind National Fish & Chip Day, yes, but don’t feel under pressure to offer any discounts.”
National Fish & Chip Shop of the Year winner The Cod’s Scallops will also be holding scaled-back celebrations with owner John Molnar feeling the timing isn’t right.
He comments: “I’d like to think we are going to be busier than a normal Friday, but it’s on the back of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme so we had everyone eating out for the whole of August, that stopped on Monday and then it’s National Fish & Chip Day on the Friday, it’s just too close. And it’s the same week the kids go back to school. The timing just isn’t right. I think the end of October when normality was restored would have been a little bit better. Or even cancel it and move it to next year.
“We’re giving one person the chance to win free fish and chips for a year at every shop, done via social media. We’ve decorated the shop and we’re working with the Norwegian Seafood Council, who have been great, to give away a winter jacket, pens and badges, so we’re still getting behind National Fish & Chip Day, I just think the timing of it is poor."
National Fish & Chip Day is organised by NEODA and is in its fifth year.