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Offering more options

Changing consumer behaviour has brought about a number of developments for Beedle’s Chippy in County Durham including new opening hours and the addition of a Lite-Bite option to the menu

Tell me a little bit about Beedle’s Chippy?

Beedle’s Chippy is in County Durham. I’ve been here since 1991, so 26 years now. We do about 80-90 sacks of potatoes a week and about 15-20 boxes of fish, so we’re a busy shop. We’re a traditional fish and chip shop. We’re not a destination, we’re near a housing estate and I would say my customer base is a mile from the shop. It means I rely on people coming once a week to the shop, if not twice a week, so my consistency has to be there every single time. I really need that customer to come back.

How have you seen your trade change over the years?

Trade has changed massively. When the pub opening hours changed to all day, we saw a big shift in trade as that really changed people’s habits. Whereas we would see trade increase from around 10.30pm onwards when the pubs were kicking out, it became more spread out over the day. And not many people work 9-5 now, they might do 6am-2pm, so on an afternoon we can be as busy as a night time.

Do you experience big differences in the summer and winter?

Yes, in the winter, I’m busier at tea time and quieter in the nights because people finish work and go home, lock the door and don’t go out again. Whereas in the summer time, they finish work, they’ll go home, wash the car, mow the grass and then think I’m hungry and then come out. So we’re busier later on at night.

Have you made any changes to address the shift in customer behaviour?

Yes, we don’t shut at all now. Whereas a few years ago we would close between 2pm and 4pm and then open until midnight to catch the pub trade, that’s just non-existent now, so we’re open all day from 10.30 in the morning but close earlier at 10pm.

Another big change is deliveries. We’re working with Just Eat as we’ve found online and app ordering is on the increase much, much more. The other thing is, anyone can sell food these days. We get more competition from the paper shop selling coffees and pies, even the petrol station now has a Costa Coffee, so we have to be on the ball so much more now.

Have you made any changes to the menu as a result of this?

Yes, we’ve always offered a special for the OAPs and the children which we sold in our own boxes, but recently we saw that the industry was highlighting these as a more calorie controlled portion, so we started selling them as a Lite-Bite portion in the boxes from Colbecks. As well as being more economical than our own boxes, they are a bit smaller so the foodl fits in really well.

What size is your Lite-Bite and is it proving profitable?

We offer a 4oz fish along with a 6oz portion of chips and a side of mushy peas for £3.85. Our standard fish and chips is £5.50 and that’s for a 7oz fish and a 10oz portion of chips, so we’re actually making more profit selling the Lite-Bite. Also, with the Lite-Bite you can turn them over quicker, they are a faster seller as we’ll sell two of those whereas a customer would generally come in and say I’ll have two fish and a portion of chips.

Are the boxes helping with portion control?

Portion control is much better now as staff can’t overfill the boxes, which is saving me money, but also people are becoming accustomed to what a portion is so you don’t get anyone saying I want more chips, I got more last time.

Do you promote the calorie side of the Lite-Bite?

Yes, we put the information on the website and tell our customers that a Lite-Bite special is around 450 calories. People want to know that information these days and, as an operator, I’ve got to prepared for that question. People are a lot more conscious of what’s in the products they are eating and I think they like to know that with the Lite-Bite at least they can still have something later in the day. The way things are, it’s good that the industry is looking at the problem and taking action by cutting the portion size and communicating the nutritional aspect to customers.

Who is the Lite-Bite appealing to?

Everyone because it’s a quick, easy to eat on the go meal. We get workmen in on their lunch breaks because it’s not too heavy. And we’re seeing more and more OAPs ordering it because, in their mind, there is less wastage. The industry has always had a problem with portion control. I’ve seen portions of chips range from 6oz to 12oz. With all the will in the world, an OAP’s not going to eat 12oz of chips. We’re also getting parents buy them for the kiddies as they don’t want to pile a load of chips into them. We tend to find customers really enjoy the Lite-Bite and we are definitely seeing them coming back for them. It’s also having that desired effect of getting them in again. And customers like their own fish and chips in a box so they don’t have to share.

Is it helping to boost lunchtime trade?

We don’t limit the Lite-Bite to lunchtimes as we are quite busy then, we actually push it as an all day special. We’re probably selling about 400-500 a week now. It’s nicely presented, the portions are right, the profit from my side is right and the customer is happy as they are eating what they are buying. What I’m also finding is that most customers will buy a bottle of drink too as they seem quite happy to spend £5 at lunch time. I think they would think twice if they were spending £8, so we’re getting the upsell there too.

Are people buying the Lite-Bite on price or because it’s a lighter, healthier portion?

I think it’s both. Everything is becoming more expensive at the moment, so it is a conscious choice for customers to look at price and weigh up what they are getting for that price and whether that meal is going to sustain them until their next meal. I also genuinely think customers are realising that the Lite-Bite is only half the calories of standard fish and chips so think great, I can have another one of them during the week.

Do you see the Lite-Bite as an integral part of the menu now?

Yes, absolutely, we’ll do this forever, we can’t go back on it now. A number of years ago, when the credit crunch came, we did find a downturn where, instead of buying fish and chips twice, people were buying two fish and one bag of chips and halving it, so this product will help if we see that situation again.

We’ve tried to diversify into other avenues, we’ve tried different species of fish for example, but it just wasn’t happening. Our customers just want cod all the time so we have to stick to cod and chips. The Lite-Bite gives us the opportunity to do that, but still offer our customers choice.

And you can’t just go on selling the one size, you’ve got to be offering the customer some variety on the menu while still offering them fish and chips, after all that’s what they’ve come in for. If I can offer them a smaller portion - there’s no difference in quality, it’s just a smaller portion - and get them coming back again then, ultimately, I’ve done what I set out to achieve.

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