As margins tighten on fish and chips, shops are increasingly turning their attention to other items such as pies
Pies will always be a firm favourite on a fish and chip menu and the popular flavours such as steak and kidney and chicken and mushroom continue to be top sellers. In fact, online food delivery platform Deliveroo recently revealed that orders of the comfort-food classic have rocketed by 201% in the last six months. And, yes, it was steak and kidney that took the lead, making up almost a quarter of UK pie orders, with chicken and mushroom the next most popular savoury pie flavour.
While not much has changed in the flavour stakes, brand loyalty certainly has as pressure on prices is making friers scrutinise every area of their business to see where efficiencies and improvements can be made. Take Pukka Pies, for example. Once regarded as the king of the fish and chip shop, more recently that crown has slipped as price increases and cut-price deals with supermarkets have lead many shops to reconsider their allegiance and switch brands.
One of these is Aragon Fisheries in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. The takeaway first started selling Pukka Pies when it introduced microwaveable versions, but 12 months ago switched to Qualipies from Wrights. Owner Sally Cunningham comments: “I know everyone has heard of Pukka Pies, but it got to the point where it was cheaper to buy them in Morrisons than it was for me to buy them from Colbecks. Qualipies were recommended to me by another shop owner and, I have to say, they look good and have plenty of filling in them. They work out about 80p each and we sell them at £2.20, so that’s not a bad margin.”
With no oven in the takeaway, it’s a quick 4.5 minutes in the microwave from frozen and the pies are ready to go in to a box. “It suits us as we can do this on demand,” says Sally. “We are primarily a fish and chip shop, but this allows us to cater for those that might want something else.”
Pukka certainly isn’t without its supporters. It still has a loyal following of shops which stand by the brand and know it’s what their customers - who will often ask for “Pukka Pie and chips” rather than “pie and chips” - want. One of these is award-winning shop Krispies in Exmouth, Devon. It sells Pukka’s two top performing flavours - steak and kidney and chicken and mushroom - the former being the most popular by far. Despite trying to remove pies from the menu several years ago, Krispies had to bring them back due to customer demand.
Owner Kelly Barnes comments: “I think it’s great to offer a bit of diversity to the menu and I believe Pukka is more of a household name when visiting fish and chip shops.
“We personally don’t advertise that they are Pukka, I think people just expect that’s what you’re going to sell.”
Have pride in your pies
Friars Pride has launched Pride Pies available in four fillings - chicken and mushroom, mince beef and onion, steak and kidney, and all steak.
Made with a crisp, light puff pastry case, the pies hold well in the top box and offer an excellent meat content and value for money. Free point of sale posters are available, simply ask when placing your order.
Friars Pride 01733 316400 www.friarspride.co.uk
Over in Neath, West Glamorgan, Shillingford’s sources pies not just from one supplier but four, with each one offering something different. There’s a vegan range made by local bakery Mr Nice Pies which have quirky names, such as Swedey Todd and Druken Mushroom, as well as meat pies from another local supplier unique to the area called Evans Pies. In addition, it sells Peter’s Regency Pies, which boast a deeper fill and more premium fillings, such as steak and ale and roast chicken and gravy, plus mini half-sized pies which make up a light bite option or a kids meal.
Owner Kirsty Shillingford, comments: “Having a variety on the menu is important to use. We’ve been in the local area for 30 years and it’s what the customer wants. They want to have a local bakery but they also want a premier filling. None of the other fish and chip shops around here offer a vegan range and not many do a small pie, so it’s what makes us different. It is harder work, you need more room in your fridge, there’s more paperwork and more allergen work - but they all sell really well so, for us, it’s worth it.”
For David Almond, who owns two shops called the White Horse Cafe, one in Thirsk and the other in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, he calls in the specialists to make his pies, using a butcher just 200 meters from the shop. David comments: “It’s a really easy way to do pies, they are the experts so I know I can rely on them for a homemade, high quality pie. And I always think it looks better if you can use local produce.”
Made fresh every day and delivered hot each morning, the pies go straight in the hot box and once they’ve sold out, they’ve sold out. From a cost perspective, the numbers stack up well, with David adding: “They do cost more than a manufactured pie but the profit margin is still good as we double the price on them.”
Going one step further and making its own pies is The Cod’s Scallops in Nottingham. Investment in a development kitchen above the Carrington chippy has provided both space and equipment to bring the only product not made on the premises in-house. Owner John Molnar has created three signature fillings - steak and scale ale, chicken, ham and leek and a vegan chickpea and butternut squash balti - which are added to bought in pastry shells made to a recipe John had adapted specifically for the shop. Once sealed, the pies are hand-crimped and frozen and it’s these raw pastry, frozen pies which are then distributed to John’s shops, ready for baking.
While pie sales were good before switching to homemade, they are even better now with sales up 7%. John comments: “From a cost element, it’s probably about 15% more to produce our own so I’m not any better off. But each customer is getting a good 6oz of meat and it gives people another reason to come to us. Some customers are so torn now between having a piece of fish and a pie that many take a pie home for later. There’s one woman who comes in and buys a dozen at a time and says they are great for a midweek tea. And that’s what has really surprised me, the off-sales the pies are creating. I might be making 58% gross profit on a homemade pie now rather than 65% before, but I’m actually selling more pies.”
With so many different ways to do pies these days, whether it’s fresh or frozen, oven baked or microwaved, shortcrust or puff pastry, meat or vegan, one thing is for sure, they will continue to be a chip shop staple for years to come.
Holland’s Pies 01706 213591 www.hollandspies.co.uk
Pukka Pies 0116 260 9755 www.pukkapies.co.uk
Peter’s 08708 505 606 www.petersfood.co.uk
Wrights 01270 504300 www.wrightsfoodgroup.com
Penny Lane Foods 01278 424244 www.pennylanefoods.com