Working as a potato peeler and a frier in somebody else's shop for many years, Toby Drewry and Lee Myers decided three years ago to be their own bosses and bought West End Fish Bar, a run-down takeaway on the main road into Lincoln.
The pair could see its potential immediately, with Toby saying: “It was in a terrible state when we took it over. It was dirty, it had a poor food hygiene rating and customers were just not excited about coming to it. It was a real shame because in the 1980s it had an outstanding reputation. We literally spent the first few weeks cleaning it, putting in new menu boards and signs and bringing it back up to scratch.”
Wanting to keep the traditional fish and chip shop element but extend the offering, Toby has gradually added more fish to the menu, the most popular being Pacific West’s Seafood Basket, which it was introduced to by Derby-based Zan Fish Wholesale.
Toby comments: “Customers love the mix of seafood and it gives us the opportunity to provide more choice while staying traditional, which I believe is absolutely key. When we took the shop on, although it was advertised as a fish bar, it only sold cod and haddock, there was no other range of fish, so that was something we wanted to improve upon.”
It’s just one of a number of products Zan Fish has brought to the newbies’ attention, as Toby explains: “Zan Fish are very good at bringing us new things to try. For example, they introduced us to mozzarella sticks, which we now sell, and we also use a lot of their own branded products, like their fishcakes, gravy and curry sauce, which are not only great value but are also really good quality.”
Receiving deliveries every other week, Toby has come to rely on Zan Fish Wholesale for everything from packaging to sausages, adding: “Zan Fish always have what I need and, if they don’t, they will find it. Their prices are very competitive and they’ve even helped me finance bits of equipment when I’ve needed it, like a new bain marie.”
Another key ingredient Toby buys through Zan Fish is his oil. In search of a better quality oil that was also healthier, Toby recently switched from a hydrogenated palm oil to a non-hydrogenated product. He comments: “I’ve been using P100 for about three months now and I wouldn’t switch back. The quality is brilliant, the oil never looks dark, the chips are coming out a little bit crispier and the batter is a lot better. It also lasts longer and it’s a healthier product, which is great for our customers.”
Having restored its reputation as an outstanding fish and chip shop, West End Fish Bar is once again exciting customers, with Toby adding: “We’ve got a lot of competition where we are so it’s important to have a niche, something that makes us stand out from other fish and chips shops and ensure people are talking about us. We’re constantly updating the menu and we offer top quality ingredients, cooked in a very good oil, on a very expensive piece of equipment, by experienced friers.”
Zan Fish Wholesale 01332 989052 www.zanfish.co.uk/wholesale