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Shops chip in to help before closing

Fish and chip shops closing due to coronavirus have been doing their bit for their local community before pulling down the shutters by handing out free stock to those in need.

Ridgeway Fish Bar in St Alban’s placed 20 bags of potatoes outside its shop and invited customers to help themselves.

Owner Danny Koumi comments: “The reception was extremely heartfelt and very welcome due to the shortages of staples, such as potatoes. I’m actually quite overwhelmed with people’s thank yous. The first 10 bags went extremely quickly so I put another 10 out as I was still getting messages.”

Draycott Fish Bar in Derby meanwhile donated left-over stock to the local food bank, while Tony’s Fish Bar in Grimsby passed its surplus fish, pies, fishcakes and potatoes to The Salvation Army and The Rock Foundation. Shaw’s Fish & Chips in Dodworth, South Yorkshire, shared its spuds between the local elderly and isolated, and Fish & Chips@Weston Grove fed the homeless in Chester with sausage, chips and gravy.

Many shops cooked what leftover food they had and delivered hot meals to key workers and those in need for free. Colman's Seafood Temple in South Shields delivered 200 meals to staff at South Tyneside Hospital, while Hooked Chip Shop in Knutsford, Cheshire, took over 70 meals to NHS staff at Leighton Hospital.

Captain Thornton’s in Leeds provided 40 portions of fish and chips to the HDU department at St James’s Hospital. Owner James Thornton said: "Some NHS staff and key worker have been struggling recently to buy food due to the recent panic in supermarkets, so we felt it was the least we could do.”

As much of the industry prepares to shut down, a small majority of shops have taken the decision to follow government advice and stay open.

The Trawlerman Fish Bar in Saffron Walden is still open for walk-in orders but has impressed upon customers the need for social distancing and has set up a 6ft no-go zone between the customers and the shop assistants.

Owner Aliosman Ibryam comments: "Our shop has been open for the last 38 years so it's very important for us to keep our regular customers and our new customers happy and help them out as much as we can at this time.

"We check our tempetarues every morning before we enter the shop and we're ensuring we do everything correctly."

Salt & Vinegar in Helston, Cornwall, is operating deliveries and collection only and has created a colourful flower display in its window for families who might be out on their permitted once-a-day walk. A poster in the window asks children to count how many different colours they can see.

Ship Deck in Caerphilly, South Wales, has closed to the public but is open for contactless collections and deliveries which are ordered and paid for over the phone.

Owner Ryan Hughes comments: “We did initially close but what changed my mind was getting a message from a customer who lives four miles from the shop and who has fish and chips once a week, but is in isolation and can’t see anyone. A lot of our customers are elderly so it made me think there will be lots more like them who we could still help.”

The shop has introduced reduced hours, opening 5-9pm, and strict working procedures whereby one member of staff carries out the prep during the day and sanitises the shop before leaving. Two team members are then paired up to work the same evening shifts so as to ensure staff do not mix.

Ryan adds: “Fish and chips isn’t an essential, it is a luxury, I know that, but if there’s a way we can do it safely then I will do it.

“It’s not about profits, my profit margins are going to be squeezed, but there are a lot of elderly stuck in who can’t go out, so as long as we have the product to do it and the demand from our customers, we will continue."

As an increasing number of wholesalers and suppliers are temporarily closing, getting hold of supplies may become an issue.

Ryan adds: “I know there will come a point when we will run out of stock, but for the time being my staff of 12 have all got a full time wage coming in and the customers most in need are getting their fish and chips.”

The latest businesses to close their doors are frozen at sea fish suppliers Collins Seafoods and Wraggs Seafood, while Friars Pride will be closing as of 5.30pm today.

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