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Weymouth chippy does U-turn on village van stop

A Dorset chip shop owner has admitted he made a mistake taking his mobile fish and chip van to a nearby village during lockdown where two other chippies were open and trading.

Mark Bennett owns Bennett’s Fish & Chips in Weymouth and also operates four mobile units. Two are trailers used for festivals, corporate events and weddings - all sectors which have come to a standstill since coronavirus - while the other two are chip vans which operate along set routes in and around Dorset.

Last week, Mark took one of the vans on the five-mile journey to Preston to feed locals after he was informed one of its local chippies had closed.

Mark comments: “It was on my understanding that one particular chip shop wasn’t open during lockdown, so to save furloughing some of my staff and to create another arm to the business I was going to take my chip van over to Preston, which is at the far end of Weymouth. The other chip shop phoned me up straight away and said they were very disappointed that I was going to trade on their turf, and I drove away thinking that’s absolutely right, it is wrong.

“He made a very valid point that we need to stick together and that locals should shop local. Straight away I said ‘yes, I’ve got this one wrong’. I was given some poor information.

“I’ve got a good working relationship with most fish and chip shops in Weymouth so I wouldn’t want to sour that.”

On the shop’s socials, the chippy apologised, saying: “In the midst of our excitement, we didn’t fully consider the impact our Chip Truck may have on Preston’s existing shops. We’ve been reminded that now more than ever, we need to support each other both as individuals and businesses…so Preston, we shall leave you in the capable hands of Stacey’s and Preston Fish & Chips and find ourselves some unclaimed territory.”

Bennett’s Fish & Chips was opened in 1989 by Mark’s father and was passed down to Mark five years ago.

Its location in Weymouth, overlooking the harbour, set it up for a good summer, as Mark explains: “We’ve had a really good period during lockdown and over the summer mainly because of the tourism that stayed in and around the county as well as people coming here from other parts of the country.

“When lockdown first happened, the demand for fish and chips was absolutely huge. We closed for two weeks while I looked at how we could remodel the business and find a way of reopening and trading safely. We had our own app made, we used click and collect, and we were fortunate enough to have an ice cream window facing the harbourside so we were able to close the front doors of the shop and serve people from the window. We also employed three or four delivery drivers to deliver all over town.

“When the government let customers back in, we were a lot busier than we expected. Holidaymakers didn’t want to be sat inside a restaurant or a pub. Because of our location, on the beautiful harbour, they would rather sit there, eat fish and chips and watch the boats, so we benefitted hugely from that.”

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