Eating salads is considered to be one of the healthiest habits to adopt as it’s a convenient way to add a couple of servings of vegetables - and sometimes fruit - to the diet. With mounting pressure on the industry to increase the healthy options available, could serving salads be one solution?
Okay, so a salad isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of popular chip shop sides. But with the warmer weather seeing consumers increasingly look for fresh, lighter and healthier food options - and with many shops seeing a lull in footfall - adding a green leafy side to a portion of fried or grilled fish might be a better fit for the menu than you think. Add to this the fact that there’s a growing demand for healthier options in general, especially among millennials who fish and chips shops are keen to attract and who are willing to spend more, and it certainly sounds like it could work.
One shop that has done just that is The Scallop Shell in Bath, where a box of the healthy stuff has been a popular option on the menu for a number of years. Although the outlet now only operates a restaurant service, before the takeaway closed last summer, salads along with grilled fish made up 40% of its sales and owner Garry Rosser said they are a mainstay of the menu.
Offering one salad a day but varying it each day, Garry says it gives customers choice. He comments: “People’s eating habits are changing. You’ve got to diversify and give that healthier option. A salad lightens a dish and makes it more refreshing. A really nice one we do, which anyone could do if they make their own tartare sauce, is mix the sauce with some fresh chopped parsley and some salad potatoes you’ve just cooked and you’ve got yourself a potato, caper and onion salad. It’s as simple as that and it’s a good alternative to chips.”
Obviously, you want salads to sell and not just sit there looking pretty, so Garry recommends keeping it simple, using quality ingredients and starting with familiar salads that people are used to. “Don’t overcomplicate it, maybe do a salad that has just three elements in it and try and do something that people like - don’t start using ingredients people aren’t comfortable with. A kale, pomegranate and banana salad doesn’t inspire me, but if you said tomato, cucumber and red onion then that makes me want to eat it.”
Garry’s team makes up the day’s salad as close to service as possible, he recommends takeaways do it around 11.30 in the morning and again at 5.30pm, adding: “Make it as close to service as you can and don’t hide it away in the fridge, salads should be seen. We make up a 5kg tub at a time and decant it into 375g tubs which are out for customers to see.”
A 5kg tub makes Garry about 30-40 portions and costs him just £6. He sells it for £2.50 a portion but says even selling it for £1.50 in takeaway would give a good return. “You want to sell it, rather than have any left at the end of the day,” he adds.
Success of salads
Oliver’s Fish and Chips in London has also made a success of salads with four on its menu all chosen to meet the demographics of its customers as well as the demands of the kitchen. Owner Esref Ergisi comments: “The Israeli salad we put on the menu because of the area we are in, we have a lot of Israeli and Jewish customers so it appeals to them. The others - halloumi, goat’s cheese and nicoise - make use of our grills. We’re not your typical fish and chip shop, we don’t do sausages, we don’t do pies, but we do a lot of grilled fish. So having the grilled halloumi and grilled goat’s cheese salads in particular enable us to offer something different and something not a lot of other shops can do. Because we do grilling with fish, it’s something easy for us to extend into.”
With a majority of the salad already cut, staff just grill the cheese to order in a matter of minutes, meaning it’s one of the shop’s easiest options to do, and that’s paramount says Esref.
“If it’s not your core business it needs to be simple, it needs to be quick and the customer doesn’t need to wait a huge amount of time for it.”
With halloumi and goat’s cheese very common cheeses nowadays, Esref believes these two salads could work in any fish and chip shop across the UK. However, for those that don’t have the equipment, he recommends a feta cheese salad. “It’s so easy, you can cut your cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce so it’s ready and when a customer orders it just dice some feta cheese, sprinkle on some dressing and Bob’s your Uncle! Feta is a nice light cheese, not too salty, it’s a very good option and you don’t need to be a griller. It’s something different on your menu too.”
One shop that has only recently experimented with a takeaway salad is Fish Hoose in Thornton, Kirkcaldy. Adding a mixed salad to the menu for National Fish & Chip Day along with a different variety of fish, including scallops, lobster and oysters, owner Colin Cromer admits that sales were slow to begin with but people are now asking for it. “We’ve taken an order this week for Friday night for eight people that includes scallops, oysters, hake, plaice, whitebait, lobster and salmon. Some is grilled, fried, breaded and battered but none of them want chips, they’ve all asked for just salad, so it’s definitely getting a better response now.”
As well as offering salad as a side, Colin’s used it to create a number of new additions to the menu - a fish taco and a chicken taco both of which are proving a hit with the local slimming club.
“It’s all new things you can add to the menu. We’ve been open a year now and we’re still seeing new faces coming in. I would say if you’ve got the facilities to grill do a grilled chicken salad, it’s so easy and it’s really popular. There is loads you can do once you’ve got the salad there. Just use a bit of imagination, maybe buy in a bit of salmon or some tuna for a salmon or tuna salad.”
Salads can be exciting and they can be appealing. The important thing is to keep them fresh, make sure they are simple, promote the fact they are available and give them a chance to build up a following. If you hook up with a local veg supplier it gives you another story to promote, but if you want to test the market first, why not try a pre-prepared option available from most wholesalers?
Hopkins offers a range of saladette options, for example for large shops or restaurants with space in the kitchen, its saladette with gastronorm containers on the top and refrigerated storage for more salad or other foods underneath is ideal. For smaller shops or those with limited space, a countertop topping station is the perfect space-saving solution.
Hopkins 0113 257 7939 www.hopkins.biz
Ready to go
Check out Brakes’ range of prepared salads. From a simple Waldorf salad, to a pea, bean and mint combo, to a more exotic fruit Morrocon couscous side, it’s got gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options available too.
Brakes 0845 606 9090 www.brake.co.uk
Eliminate bacteria and improve product quality with Fresh Produce Wash from Drywite. Added to fresh water, it kills 99.9% of pathogenic bacteria such as Ecoli, Campylobacter, Listeria and Salmonella and, once applied, treated produce requires no further rinsing. Available in a 2.5 litre bottle and hand pump, one press of the pump dispenser will dose every three litres of water.
Drywite 01384 569556 www.drywite.co.uk
Box it up
The Relish box from Huhtamaki is great for presenting salads as it is grease-proof lined and made with 100% PEFC paperboard. Available as standard in kraft brown board, it can also be manufactured in white board or custom printed.
Huhtamaki 02392 512434 www.foodservice.huhtamaki.co.uk
Salads can carry food poisoning germs just like any other ready to eat food and are, therefore, classed as a high-risk food and need special care:
• Buy your salads, fruit, and vegetables from an established and reputable supplier
• Insist on good quality and don’t accept anything that is not in first class condition.
• Store in a cool dry place, preferably in a refrigerator
• Washing is imperative to remove any soil and potential bacteria, including E.coli, from the surface of fruit and vegetables. Washing them under a running tap is not adequate, so also rub them under water in a bowl of fresh water. Start with the least soiled items first and give each of them a final rinse.
• When salad has been washed and rinsed keep it in a clean container with a lid to stop germs from getting on to it.
• Always wash your hands before touching salads or fruit to avoid passing on germs, and avoid touching it with bare hands – use tongs instead.
Fruit and vegetables are a vital source of vitamins and minerals and should make up just over a third of the food we eat each day.