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Summer ready

Drywite Young Fish Frier of the Year 2017 finalist James Houlston talks about the impact the summer season and the warm weather has on trade

Trade at two out of our three shops is pretty consistent 52 weeks of the year. Our Plaice in Kidderminster gets slightly busier in the summer season as it attracts the tourists visiting both the Severn Valley Railway and the West Midlands Safari Park, while our Hagley shop actually goes slightly quieter at this time of year as it’s in a small village so we really notice when people disappear for a day out.

There’s not a lot we can do to boost trade during that time, so we just ride it out, check the weather in the morning and prep a little less that day. At both of these shops, however, getting the locals on side is key, which we do by offering the best possible product with the best service we can all year round.

The Chip Shed, which we opened last year, in Warwick is a completely different shop. It’s very current with the tongue and groove wood decor, it’s what everyone is looking for at the moment and trade goes absolutely mental in the summer. We’re directly opposite Warwick Castle, so from Easter onwards we notice a massive upturn in trade as there are literally thousands of people going through its doors. And because Warwick is a tourist location, people come rain or shine. Bus companies, for example, do planned trips every day so those people will come whatever the weather.

It’s almost the opposite to the other two shops; we have to work really hard to get the tourists on side, which means as well as serving a great product it’s also really important to get our name out there. How we do this is by being all over social media this time of year. It’s so important these days, I don’t know of many businesses that don’t have a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account.

We put daily posts up, anything that keeps customers in the loop. The other day I put up a post about getting some new tables and chairs. That evening a customer came in and actually said they had seen the post and how great they looked. Another post recently referenced Jimmy Buchan’s scampi, which we’ve just added to the menu. It’s a fantastic product and social media gives us the ability to tell our customers about it and that makes them want to try it. Sometimes, for a small fee, we’ll boost our posts which has a big impact, reaching friends of friends of friends.

Also when it gets warm, we see a huge boost in sales of salads. In fact, our biggest seller at lunchtime currently is fish with a portion of salad. People don’t want a lot to eat when it’s hot, so this is ideal and it’s something I would recommend other shops try. We’ve also added calamari recently, which is a bit lighter, and we’re also going to introduce tempura battered prawns in the next few weeks, which I know will fly out the door with a salad.

The other thing is, of course, we make sure the staff feel as comfortable as possible in the hot weather. We are a small shop, so it does get quite warm. We found fans to be useless, so we make sure the staff stay hydrated by drinking plenty and taking regular 5-10 minute breaks where they can go outside to get some fresh air. And we’ll buy them little treats every so often, we find buying an ice cream works really well!

We all know the hot weather doesn’t last very often, so make the most of it because it will be cold and dark again before we know it!

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