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Shops reacting quickly to keep customers fed

Fish and chip shops across the UK are making sweeping changes to the way they operate in response to the growing spread of coronavirus.

From limiting the number of customers coming in, to banning all cash payments, to introducing a delivery service, owners are quickly adapting in a battle to survive while ensuring customers can continue to enjoy fish and chips safely.

Millers Fish & Chips in Haxby, York, closed its restaurant on Monday and as of 4.30pm today is introducing a scaled-down menu, will stop serving gluten free and is selling wet fish directly to customers. Owner Nick Miller comments: “It’s a massive change to how we normally run the business. We’re just doing our core range and we’re selling haddock only. We want it to be easier for the staff, so easier to run the shop, fewer deliveries coming in and just streamline it all for the time being. Removing gluten free was a tough decision but the last thing we want to do is make someone ill and we don’t feel confident that we can do it properly without having the right amount of staff on.

“A new feature for us is selling wet fish. We are selling it by the ounce, so the customer can get a quality piece of fish and they can do whatever they want with it. We’ve also been training our team so that as of 4.30pm today we can offer contact-free deliveries too.”

In Peterborough, as of this weekend, Fishtastic is allowing customers to return to their cars once an order is placed and a member of staff will take their food out to them.

Owner Matt Bedford comments: “One of our shops is near a Morrisons with a big car park. We’ve noticed people are already social distancing when they come into the shops so rather than customers not coming in because of a queue, they can order, sit in their car and we’ll have a member of staff run it out. We’re doing a delivery service at our other shop but we are now introducing it here tomorrow too as there are a lot of people isolating and not going anywhere.”

Others, like Burton Road Chippy, are restricting the number of customers entering the takeaway. Owner Lesley Graves comments: “It will start tomorrow. I'm basing it on people having space in the shop front so I will be limiting it to five. Any other customers will be asked to wait outside and respect social distancing, so it will be one in one out. The other thing is safe queueing as we don't want people in danger so we will be guiding people to queue across the front of the shop and on to our patio area so they are away from the car park and the road.”

Colmans Seafood Temple in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, is one of the many businesses that have brought forward plans to introduce a click and collect and delivery service. Owner Richard Ord Jnr comments: “We announced Colmans at Home on Monday and did a trial run yesterday so it will be rolled out tomorrow. We also introduced a call and collect service yesterday and it was about 40% of our business. To have that impact on day one just shows how conscientious people are of the situation at the moment. We’ve just got to adapt.”

Introducing these services is helping ensure staff retain their jobs, with Richard adding: “All my waiting staff are now delivery drivers so it keeps them in work, the kitchen staff still have jobs. We’re just doing what we can to keep people fed, happy and in work.”

Meanwhile, restaurants, which are feeling the biggest effects of the virus, are also adapting to protect what trade they have. Dave Atkinson, owner of Fish Face in Seaton Carew, Hartlepool, has reduced his 90-cover restaurant down to 45-covers by removing half the tables.

“We’ve done it to get the social distancing required of about two metres from the next table,” he says.

“Restaurant trade has fallen off a cliff, but the people that have come in have said what a brilliant idea it is and have praised us for thinking of the customers. It’s a good positive thing to show were are doing something.”

Dave is considering moving onto card payments only so no one is handling any cash, introducing deliveries and maybe even shutting the restaurant.

“If we’re at the stage where the takeaway is too cramped to receive people comfortably and the restaurant doesn’t go as well as we need for it to stay open, what we’ll do is take all the tables and chairs out of the restaurant so we can serve straight over our bar and we’ll put a two meters station between our customers.

“While the business is still operating, you’ve got to do the best you possibly can for your customers and your staff.”

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