Graham Corfield, UK MD of Just Eat and co-founder of the British Takeaway Campaign, explains how the fish and chip industry fits into the new initiative and how it aims to bring about change in the sector
Why has the British Takeaway Campaign been formed?
As one of the co-founders of the British Takeaway Campaign, Just Eat is proud to be spearheading this initiative which aims to shout about the huge economic, social and cultural value the sector makes to the UK - from fish and chips shops to the latest fusion foods.
It’s important to remember that our sector contributed £4.5bn in gross value added contributions to economic growth in 2016 and supports around 231,000 jobs - and we believe that’s worth celebrating.
Who’s backing the campaign?
Our members include a range of industry bodies right across the supply and preparation of takeaway and across all cuisines including the National Federation of Fish Friers, Food Service Packaging Association and Nationwide Caterers Association. We are still in discussions with other industry bodies and we’ll be announcing more members as they come on board.
What’s your view on the fish and chip shop sector and do you see it as a valuable contributor to the overall takeaway market?
Fish and chip shops are the backbone of the UK takeaway sector and make a huge contribution to the overall takeaway market.
Although we are seeing consumers become more adventurous with their tastes, for example, we’ve seen Middle Eastern food growing in popularity, fish and chips is consistently high on surveys of the nation’s favourite foods.
What do you feel are the key issues within the fish and chip shop sector and how will you ensure they are listened to?
Fish and chip shops are raising the same issues with us as other takeaways operating across other cuisines. That ranges from challenges accessing skills and ensuring vocational training matches its needs, as well as dealing with the issue of rising costs of wages, food inflation and business rates.
These are major issues whichever cuisine you operate in and the BTC will be working closely with the NFFF to ensure fish and chips are represented in our discussions with policy makers, alongside other industry groups, representing other cuisines, including Chinese, Indian, kebab and pizza and pasta to name a few.
One of the biggest problems facing shops is recruiting staff, how do you aim to tackle this on behalf of the fish and chip trade?
Yes, skills shortages are a big issue across the industry. Just Eat recently surveyed 300 takeaways who said they are currently experiencing skills shortages, particularly for chefs, front of house staff and delivery drivers, and over a third believed leaving the EU will make it harder for their business to recruit staff.
The BTC’s approach is to focus on delivering high quality training so we will be working closely with the Department for Education on the launch of the new T-Level in catering and hospitality to ensure it’s responsive to the industry’s needs and addresses areas of skills shortages.
For the fish and chip sector we’ve called for a specialist module in the T-level on fish frying, as well as on curry and pizza making – all cuisines which are experiencing skills shortages. We want to see more young people getting fired up about building long-term careers in the takeaway sector because it offers a rewarding future for budding entrepreneurs who often go on to build up successful chains.
At the same time, we want to ensure changes to the immigration system don’t jeopardise the takeaway sector’s continued success. We’ll be making the case strongly to Government that as a significant contributor to jobs and growth, it's vital that the immigration system enables the sector to access the skills it needs from inside and outside the EU.
Another area causing concern is the business rates regime. How do you plan to tackle this?
Business rates are another perennial issue for takeaways. Our recent survey found more than a third of restaurants said they will be negatively affected by the recent review of business rates. It’s clear that the current system isn’t working and it needs to be fairer and more transparent. We want to see more frequent revaluations, rates pegged to CPI rather than RPI but ultimately the system needs a fundamental overhaul.
Will you be tackling the issue of VAT on hot takeaway food?
We know this has been an issue that the the fish and chips sector has been actively campaigning on. With Brexit dominating, the prime focus for the BTC will be ensuring the sector’s voice is heard on skills and immigration as these are the issues that our members tell us are the most pressing for them at this time.
How do you think the takeaway sector has changed over the last decade?
Technology is transforming the way consumers interact with takeaways, and fuelling enormous growth in the sector. As more and more people take advantage of the convenience and choice offered by takeaway apps, they are becoming core business for high street takeaways. 35,000 establishments now use online apps like Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats, many are on more than one platform, and nearly three-quarters say they’ve been positive for the business.
The boom in online and smartphone orders is a key driver for the massive expansion in the sector since 2009, with turnover up more than a third, despite the recession. What’s so positive is that this kind of technology is really empowering smaller takeaways, like fish and chip shops, to compete on a level playing field with the bigger chains for orders.
It is also fostering enormous competition and innovation in the sector – creating ever more demanding consumers, able and willing to shop around, and hunt out the food they want, at the touch of a button. We’re seeing this, for example, in the increase in orders outside of traditional mealtimes, and in the increased demand for more health-conscious menu options – trends that takeaway restaurants are rapidly responding to.
What’s the best part of being a champion for the takeaway sector?
I love travelling around the country and hearing from takeaway owners about their passion and drive, as well as about the challenges they face. What’s really positive is the fact that – as well as the economic and cultural contribution takeaways make – they also have deep roots in their local communities.
One of my favourites is Chris’s fish and chips in Luton. Owner Stratis Kyriacou is a strong believer in community engagement and Chris’s caters for over a dozen residential care homes in the local area, providing fish and chip suppers to help give the home kitchens a rest day.
What do you think are the key strengths and weaknesses within the fish and chip trade?
Fish and chip shops are a vibrant part of the takeaway community and they continue to flourish as a firm favourite with consumers. A big positive for the trade is that fish is natural, sustainable and, when cooked properly as skilled fish friers do, fish, mushy peas and a reasonable portion of chips, are a relatively healthier option. We don’t see weaknesses within the fish and chip shop sector as such but rather around the barriers to growth it is facing – challenges recruiting and retaining staff, as well as mounting costs pressures.
Where do you feel the key opportunities lie for fish and chip shops to drive growth?
For fish and chip shops, as with the rest of the takeaway sector, we think growth will come from ensuring we stay in tune with consumer tastes and demand. We are seeing more and more consumers wanting healthier options, smaller portion sizes, lower fat and low salt options and that’s a strong growth area.
How can fish and chip shops get involved with your campaign?
We’d love to hear from fish and chip shops that want to get behind the campaign. At the moment membership is via your trade body, but individual takeaways can support us by following us on Twitter (@GB_Takeaway), emailing us at (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share their stories and keeping across our website.