How do you go from a shop turning over a few hundred pounds a week to one making five or even ten thousand a week? Ken Mackenzie, owner of All-Ways Fryday in Poole, Dorset, knows having done exactly that three times
When you’re in sales it’s said that you should be able to sell anything, so when Ken Mackenzie gave up his job as a sales manager for a cosmetics company to take on the manager’s job at a shop owned by Lemon Plaice Group some 30 years ago, he was in no doubt he would make a success of the business, even if the owners weren’t so convinced at first.
“When I went for the interview, they said I was way too qualified and didn’t think fish and chips was for me but I said give me a chance, you don’t even need to keep me on,” explains Ken.
With the shop doing about £350 a week when Ken started - bearing in mind this is 30 years ago - within three months Ken says he boosted takings to £3,500 a week. “I gave the customers what they wanted - the rapport - it’s all part of selling. I also took charge of the marketing and promoted the business, it was just like selling a lipstick really. That’s when I thought this is for me.”
With fire in his belly, Ken went on to buy three shops - firstly a run down takeaway called Halfway Fish Bar in Poole, Dorset, then two businesses he started from scratch - Pathways Fish Bar, which started life as an off-license, and All-Ways Fryday, originally a Spa store. Within a few years, all three businesses had become extremely busy shops, hitting four figures a week and sometimes even five. Ken comments: “It takes about three years from scratch to actually get to your potential turnover and that’s proved itself at Pathways and All-Ways.”
Asked what the key is to increase sales, Ken says it’s a culmination of giving customers what they want, marketing so that customers know the shop is there and looking after the staff so that they care as much about the business as he does. He comments: “I look after my staff so well, but not only that, I talk to their partners as I understand they have to go through a lot too with the hours they work, for example. As a result, all my staff are amazing, hard workers and loyal.”
When it comes to the menu, Ken believes as well as serving quality fish and chips it’s the add-on items that widen the menu and give the shop greater appeal that has made a real difference to the bottom line. He comments: “What we’re trying to do is attract all the family members - the grandad and grandmother who want traditional fish and chips, the daughter who is a fussy eater, the vegetarian etc, so we have quite a varied menu.”
It’s also the profit margins that these extra items generate that boost business, things like stuffing fritters that Ken says cost 2p but he sells for 85p. He adds: “By selling these little add-ons, like haggis or sausages which people add to their orders, they are making me a 90% profit. Compare that to my fish and chips, which is making me a 72% profit and you can see why they work.”
To ensure the varied menu works for the takeaway Ken uses frozen products, which means he can handle peaks and troughs in trade and nothing is wasted. “They are very simple and straightforward to use. Instead of putting a piece of fish in the pan, it happens to be a stuffing fritter. All these funny little add-ons are very simple for the staff to do.”
It also means Ken can keep his fish and chips at a price he feels is fair - currently he’s charging £6.25 for medium cod and chips - and he doesn’t concern himself with what the competition is charging. He adds: “Competitors are a lot higher than us but I’m not going to get greedy. The shop produces what I want it to and that’s good enough for me.”
With a fantastic team of staff across the three shops and a great deal of marketing, business has continued to increase. However, it’s not all been plain sailing. In 2015, All-Ways suffered a devastating fire which caused over £400,000 worth of damage and Ken was left out of pocket when he realised an area he had overlooked was his buildings insurance.
“My insurance company was extremely supportive,” he says, “but one thing I would say to other shop owners is to make sure year-on-year you update your buildings insurance by a few per cent. I didn’t. Each year I would just renew or ask them to find a way to bring the premium down and I would never actually look at the what the building was worth, so after 15 years it had lost touch with modern building costs and so I was 25% underinsured.”
While the insurance company predicted almost a year to have All-Ways up and running, Ken had the shop ready to open within just five months complete with a new Hewigo frying range, prep equipment, signage, the lot. Customers came flooding back and trade saw a 20% increase in a matter of weeks.
Eventually, with 100 staff across the three shops and Ken feeling like he was losing contact with the staff and that the personal touch that had made the business so successful was floundering, Ken sold Pathways and Halfway to focus on building up trade further at All-Ways. But with the shop now at saturation point, even by Ken’s estimation, the question was then where to look to bring in additional footfall. That’s when All-Ways entered Fry Magazine’s 50 Best competition. Making the list and publicising the fact, year-end figures for 2018 has seen business up another 25% on last year.
Ken comments: “Coming in the Top 50 has been extremely positive for us. We’ve entered all these awards before and they are a good excuse to market the business and get in the local paper, but the Top 50 is slightly different because you’re judged on what the customer sees and that’s really important.
“It’s what I tell shops all the time to do because the publicity you get once you win an award is priceless. You are now an award-winning shop and people who didn’t know you were there will now. To win though you’ve got to up your ante - get rid of the dirty batter stained t-shirts, for example, and get some smart uniforms as customers notice all these things.”