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Words of encouragement

With the summer here and Cleethorpes hitting capacity, George Papadamou takes some time out from Papa’s to give a few words of encouragement to those entering the 2018 Drywite Young Fish Frier Award

I hope everyone’s having a busy summer. We’ve been blessed with good weather here, which has been especially great for Cleethorpes as it’s a tourist destination. What’s been really encouraging for us is that even when the weather hasn’t been too great, trade has been pretty consistent, so that’s a good sign for things to come.

Overall, we’ve been really pleased with how the new shop is doing - we’ve got over 500 seats so we’re literally doing thousands of meals a day - and especially impressed with how well the team is performing.

Often the fear of opening another shop is that your existing business might take a knock on service, but we’ve actually found the opposite to be true because there are lots of lessons we’ve learnt from Cleethorpes that we’ve been able to implement at our other shops to improve them, the way we seat customers for example has been one. We’ve taken the managers from Papa's Willerby over to Cleethorpes so they can see these things for themselves. We’ve actually been able to improve service across all our restaurants which means, as opposed to our style of service and product stagnating, it’s constantly improving.

This year’s Drywite Young Fish Frier competition is underway and I can imagine for a majority of you that have sent your forms in, like I was, you’re sitting there thinking you probably won’t get past the first stage, let alone get to the second or third round. But this competition is about improving each time you enter, it’s something I only realised on my second time of entering.

What I would say is that now is a great opportunity to really hone in on key skills. Everything happens really quickly now, especially when the judges start whittling down the groups, so speak to your manager or your boss and see where they think you can improve and where any gaps in your knowledge might be.

For many people the second round telephone call is the part they stress about the most as you’re put on the spot a bit. But now that's over just be confident in the basics such as fish, potato and batter preparation and know about sustainability and your frying medium. It’s also useful to know a little bit about marketing, health and safety as well as food safety. Although these won’t be the main focus of your job, it’s good to show a level of knowledge and involvement.

Also make sure you can demonstrate to the judges you know best practice, even if you do things differently in your shop, explain the correct procedures and the reasons why you do what you do. You won’t lose any marks simply for doing things differently.

I like to think us young friers are a close knit community and there’s so much you can learn from visiting other shops. But the first place you really need to go is out your back door and through your own front door to see what your customers see - and also what the judges will see if and when they come to assess you. It’s very easy to go and visit another shop and comment on their business, we often fail to do the same to our own. Do that journey every day, see what the judges and customers see and implement any changes.

Finally, I would just like to say good luck to everyone who has entered. I’m just a phone call or a Facebook message away so please do ask me anything. I’ve been in your position and, although I didn’t make the final on my first attempt, I improved and that’s what eventually won it for me.

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