This year’s National Fish & Chip Day received mixed reactions with some shops reporting busier than usual Fridays and others feeling the forthcoming Jubilee celebrations and the current cost of living crisis both took their toll.
Carlo Crolla, owner of East Coast Fish & Chips in Musselburgh, East Lothian, reported a 40% increase in trade compared with an average Friday and said National Fish & Chip Day was one of the busiest nights since opening in November 2018.
A promotion giving five customers a chance to win a £20 gift card, along with hitting social media hard, helped reel customers in, with Carlo commenting: “It was a good bit busier. I’d got into a few newspapers in the run-up to National Fish & Chip Day and we kept posting on social media a few days before, putting up the articles as well as photos of fish and chips with the National Fish & Chip Day logo.
“Because it was National Fish & Chip Day, a lot of people were posting up photos of their fish and chips, which we then reposted as well. I would say the weekend was busier in general too. The weather was also good, which helps.”
The Fish Bank in Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, chose not to do any promotions this year but still saw a 15% uplift in trade, which owner Jonathan France put down to customers being aware of National Fish & Chip Day via media coverage.
The Fiddler’s Elbow in Leintwardine, Herefordshire, designed 100 scratch cards offering customers a prize every time, ranging from a free side to £10 off, redeemable on their next visit. Trade was up compared to a usual Friday although not at the level seen during last year’s National Fish & Chip Day, with owner Dominic Eusden believing customers are watching what they spend.
He comments: “The scratch cards went down really well and it gave back to customers who came out on the day and spent money they don’t have much of. It was a busy day but we were about £500 down on last year. I think people are cautious of how much they are spending and whereas people were having fish and chips once a week, now it’s more like fortnightly.
“We’re now £11.50 for standard fish and chips whereas we were about £9 last year, so that’s almost £3 more on a meal. If you’re a family of four, that’s a £12 difference.”
It was a similar picture at Captain’s Fish & Chips in Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, where the small increase in business on National Fish & Chip Day compensated for a drop in sales since prices went up at Easter.
Owner Tony Forgione says: “Years gone by I’ve made National Fish & Chip Day one of the most important days of the year, we’ve knocked out £6 fish and chips and it’s been great for me. This year I put a poster up, I didn’t run an offer because prices have gone up so much, and trade was slightly better than it has been, probably up 15%. But I did on National Fish & Chip Day what I should have been doing on a normal Friday so, realistically, it was people that had given up fish and chips on a Friday coming back for that day.
“It’s not a case of prices are expensive, it’s a case of people haven’t got the money.”
For Krispies in Exmouth, Devon, the day had very little impact on business, with owner Kelly Barnes feeling it was overshadowed by the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.
Kelly comments: “National Fish & Chip Day didn’t have a massive impact if I’m honest. We were busy but no busier than we are normally this time of year. I don’t think there’s enough promotion down our way and, potentially, in the UK.
“It was also timing this year. The Jubilee following straight after affected it I think. We’ve done a lot to promote the Jubilee weekend and think that’s marred National Fish & Chip Day this year. I’ve had more orders for the Jubilee weekend than we had for National Fish & Chip Day because people associate fish and chips with the Queen.”
At Zero Plus Fish Bar in Cardiff where owner Zohaib Hussain ran half-price chips and set a new Guinness World Record, trade was also on par with a normal Friday. Zohaib adds: “Customers are beginning to cut back. It’s generally takeaway food and restaurants which are the first thing to go when people have got to be careful with their money and that’s what we are beginning to see. I think it’s going to take a while to get back to normal.”
As well as shops running their own events, National Fish & Chip Day organiser NEODA held roadshows across the UK in cities including London, Cambridge, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Mobile vans gave away thousands of free portions of fish and chips, including Bennett's which travelled up from Weymouth for a prime spot outside the Tower of London.
Owner Mark Bennett served over 700 portions of cod and chips as well as 150 fish cakes with the help of suppliers including Friars Pride, T. Quality and Middletons.
Mark comments: "It was a lovely day because we gave away fish and chips to so many different people. We were feeding the homeless, tourists, office workers, people who didn't know it was National Fish & Chip Day, people who had no clue what we were doing and were trying to give us money! It was like a carnival.
"There has been so much negative press about the price of fish and chips increasing, but National Fish & Chip Day wasn't about that, it was about promoting the nation's favourite dish and showing people how proud we are of what we do."