Fish and chip shops ‘must offer better choice’

fish and chips
Bennett’s Fish & Chips

Fish and chips shops need to offer more choice to help reverse 30 years of industry decline, new research claims.

Findings from the study, commissioned by food industry levy bodies AHDB Potatoes and Seafish, shows that health-conscious customers want to know nutritional information about their takeaway, and many would welcome a greater variety of portion sizes.

Three-quarters of customers who took part in the survey also said they would like to see their fish and chips cooked in a way that lowered the saturated fat content of the finished dish.

Fish and chips reportedly remains the UK’s most popular fast food, with 382 million portions eaten every year from 10,500 independent shops. Around 12 per cent of all potatoes grown in Britain are destined for chip shop fryers.

AHDB and Seafish are working to help chip shop operators identify ways to improve their competitiveness and profitability. The initiative is supported by a new website, Enjoy Fish & Chips, which provides fish and chip businesses with advice, tools and best practice to help improve their offering – and their bottom line.

The biggest ever research programme on the nation’s chippies saw 1,500 people across Britain asked about their buying preferences and habits, as well as 600 mystery shopper visits looking into portion sizes offered by fish and chip shops up and down the country.

In addition, more than 400 different portions of fish and chips were analysed for nutritional composition, based on criteria including size, cooking temperature and cooking time.

The exercise found that the largest variation across the main ingredients was in a ‘standard’ or ‘regular’ chip portion size.

It also discovered 15 per cent of customers liked the size of a portion because they buy to share, with this market representing more than £17,000 in sales a year for an average fish and chip business.

AHDB and Seafish are encouraging chip shop managers to use their online Perfect Serve tool to create a range of standard portion sizes, offering customers predictability when choosing their meals, and meaning nutritional content can be calculated and displayed easily.

The approach would also have the benefits of cutting food waste and potentially improving margins.

AHDB’s Rob Clayton said: “This research is the most comprehensive piece of insight into the fish and chip industry ever produced. It is full of valuable information to help businesses make simple changes which will make a huge difference to their offerings to customers.

“We know potatoes are recognised as an important part of a healthy balanced diet and this can include fish and chips. This project will help to reinforce these messages with shops and pass on their success stories to their customers.”

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